Victimised foreign helpers face uphill struggle when seeking justice

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:30pm


Your articles concerning injustices to overseas domestic helpers ('Maids get raw deal in labour tribunal', and 'Helper's wages case drags on after eight months', August 5) should be observed and action taken on behalf of the maids.

Many of them are considering leaving Hong Kong to find justice elsewhere. Although we have a department to deal with racial prejudice, such prejudice still exists.

Not all employers are unjust, but far too many still are. I have reported a number of cases, but after a few government promises, nothing has been done. Let me mention a few examples. There are rules for the protection of maids who are physically or mentally threatened. Those maids who know the facts will seldom report even serious assaults, because they know that they will have to wait months, or even more than a year for the case to be heard in court, during which time they are not permitted to find another job.

The accused employer, however, is allowed to engage another helper.

The maid is not called upon to make a statement if she has a lawyer. I recall one case where the helper was granted legal aid, but in court she could have made out a better defence herself, because the lawyer presented her case so badly. The court supposedly reduced her sentence, but ordered her to be returned at once to her place of birth, thus depriving her of appeal to the Court of Final Appeal, as she had intended to do.

I know of several employers who deliberately misinterpret 'minimum wage' as 'maximum wage'.

Those who began service 12 years ago on a salary of HK$3,860 were reduced to HK$3,260. After 12 years of service, they are still below the salary with which they began. Some employers arrange the maids' home leave so that they will have completed almost five years of service, then suddenly sack them to avoid any hope of the maids claiming long service payment. Not all of these employers are poor wage earners, but just plain mean.

Another problem that no one is willing to face is the depreciation of the Philippine peso. In addition, taxes are added to workers' salaries - workers whom the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called 'heroes' while grabbing as many taxes as possible from them. This situation has not changed with President Benigno Aquino.

It is time for a change for overseas helpers.

Elsie Tu, Kwun Tong