Helper's wages case drags on after eight months

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:03pm


The case of Sendi Febrina illustrates some of the Labour Tribunal system's shortcomings.

On July 25, Febrina's case came across the desk of the tribunal's presiding officer, Magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei, for the fourth time in eight months. The officer expressed her irritation at both women for being disorganised. 'This case is a real pain,' said Chui.

Febrina is seeking HK$30,524 from her former employer, Mandy Kwan Ching-sze, to recover five months of unpaid wages, airfares and other small claims.

In 2011, after Kwan had been kicked out of her Sha Tin home for failing to pay her rent, she lived with a friend and avoided Febrina's attempts to make contact. 'It took me a long time to find her,' said Febrina. 'I had to ask for the help of a Filipino helper who took a child to the same school as my employer did.'

In a statement Kwan made to the presiding officer in March this year, she said Febrina failed to inform her about an earlier hearing, and accused the helper of stealing from her and leaving her child at home alone.

At the July 25 court date, the presiding officer mistakenly ruled that since a criminal investigation was taking place against Febrina, the tribunal case would be adjourned indefinitely.

Febrina told the Post she never stole from her employer and that allegations that she left the three-year-old alone in the house were false.

The police said they had found no proof of the theft allegations and in September 2011, Kwan dropped the child neglect claims. But Febrina was not able to provide this information to the tribunal.

'I was waiting for the interpreter to tell me when I would be allowed to speak, but she never did,' she said.

Febrina is appealing against the decision based on the fact that there is no criminal investigation against her, and her interpreter did not provide an accurate translation. She has been living off charity, staying at a shelter with a dozen other women who are also pursuing claims against their former employers.

'I've been there the longest. The others don't stay so long - maybe a few months. But I have to be strong. I want to be strong,' she said.