‘Noodles are not enough for OFWs’

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Labatt Nida Romulo

LISTENING to the clamour of Filipino domestic workers, Labor Attache Leonida Romulo has required employment agencies to tell employers that they should not give only noodles to their helpers for their food.

Romulo said she decided to add another provision to the “Agency’s Undertaking”—the document agency owners sign before they are accredited—to require them to “brief” employers about Filipino traditions and practices and about their “obligations” to their domestic worker.

The amendment came after a Filipino domestic worker in Kowloon died after suffering a severe stroke while an Indonesian worker in Tseung Kwan O fell to her death while cleaning an apartment window from the outside.

Under the new provision of the undertaking, agencies are now required “to brief OFW employers properly about their obligations under the Employment Ordinance, Immigration Law, Employees’ Compensation Ordinance and the Standard Employment Contract.”

Agencies should also apprise employers about “Filipino traditions and practices. For example, Filipinos usually take a bath daily; Filipinos are rice-eaters which means rice and viand are the Filipinos’ staple food, which they usually eat three times a day.”

Employment agencies should also encourage employers to “provide enough time for their helper to adjust to their new work environment and Hong Kong/Chinese culture.”

Romulo said agencies who violate this provision face suspension while employers could be blacklisted.

“We added a provision in their undertaking so that they will brief employers that Filipino domestic workers should not be given only noodles. Noodles are full of sodium. Our workers should be given rice and have three meals everyday,” Romulo said in an interview.

“Filipinos are used to eating rice and not noodles,” she said.

“There was a case here (in Hong Kong) where the domestic worker was only made to eat noodles. After nine months, she had renal failure and had to undergo dialysis. She was fed noodles morning until evening,” she added.

Romulo, who served as Philippine labor attache to Canada, also said that she noticed that many Filipino caregivers in Canada who once served as domestic workers in HK later developed cancer.

“Their check-up here showed that they were clear but, when they got there, they developed cancer after a few months or years,” she said.

Romulo said she also supported calls for foreign domestic workers in HK to have a mandatory annual check-up, like in Singapore.

“There should really be an annual check-up because they suffer from stress—this is a new environment for them—and then we now have these sudden changes in weather,” Romulo said.

“We will support that and we will push for it,” she added.

Romulo said newly-arrived workers should also not be made to do heavy work immediately after arriving in Hong Kong.

“They should be given light chores at first and introduced to their work in the household. Give her time to adjust and not make her do heavy chores immediately,”she said.

The changes in the “Agency’s Undertaking” came after domestic worker Bernadett M. Natividad died in Kowloon on July 23 due to a severe hemorrhagic stroke.

According to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) records, she was the 24th dead Filipino to be repatriated from Hong Kong this year.

OWWA officials had also visited 117 OFWs in different hospitals here in HK since the start of the year, said Welfare Officer Lorna Obedoza.

She said another domestic worker is set to be repatriated after surviving a stroke but her employer wanted her to finish her therapy first before she is flown back to the Philippines.