Claim delays see domestics break the law
Domestic workers who use the Labour Tribunal to settle employment claims are being forced into illegal jobs to finance their wait for legitimate compensation awards.
The chairman of the Asian Domestic Workers Union, Remy Borlongan, said that desperate foreign workers - some who have been waiting two years for outstanding awards - were taking up illegal work to support themselves.
'It is supposed to only take 30 days, but most of the cases we deal with take a minimum of three months,' she said.
'During this period the women are not allowed to work, but they still have to pay their visa fees, support themselves and their families. In our office, we have eight women living here while they wait for the claims.
'The average has been a five to seven-month wait, but two women have been waiting two years. But, in the meantime, these women are working illegally in restaurants, or part-time cleaning jobs.' The Judiciary admits there are delays, but it maintains the process is speeding up each year. The chronic case backlog, as high as 3,000 in 1994, had finally been cleared, a Judiciary spokesman said.
A target of not more than 30 days from the time a tribunal case is listed until the time it appears before the first tribunal officer has been set.
Figures released to the South China Morning Post revealed the delay from filing a claim until first hearing by a tribunal officer has been cut this year to 25 days.
The average time from filing until the conclusion of a case is 74 days. Three years ago, the same case would have taken 111 days.
The Judiciary credits this improvement to the computerisation of its filing system and 'a more streamlined process and staffing'.
But some unionists said the 2.5-month delay was still too long.
'If the Labour Tribunal had more officers, it would be better for workers,' Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions secretary Ip Wai-ming said.
'What it will take is extra money, but we do not believe the Judiciary is ready to do this.' The number of officers - taken from the civil service - stands at 28, with six magistrates acting as presiding officers.