Getting informed an uphill struggle

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 12:00am

I refer to the letter from Jennie Chor, for the Commissioner for Labour (South China Morning Post, July 11), claiming that Indonesian helpers have the same rights as local workers. So far as that claim goes, of course it is correct. However it might be said to be superficial.

As a result of sundry factors the Indonesian helper (who is not alone in this, as some Indian and other helpers suffer in the same way) faces some difficulty in getting informed and, once informed, getting any complaint to the right place. The principal factors include deprivation in practice of the statutory weekly rest day, and the tight rein held by the employer, often aided and abetted by the employment agency.

Your correspondent cites the law concerning prompt payment of wages and the law restricting fees payable to Hong Kong employment agencies. Notable for their absence were examples of the numbers of prosecutions and convictions under each heading. Our experience is that the Labour Department is a bit wet when it comes to taking action.

We have also noted that the Labour Relations Service (first port of call for the helper whose employment has been terminated) appears not to communicate cases featuring prima facie infringements of these laws. The helper almost invariably needs encouragement, but equally invariably she gets very little from the system.

Your correspondent mentions pamphlets to help helpers understand their employment rights. We have to say that the booklets published by the Home Affairs Department are in our opinion more informative than the pamphlets published by the Labour Department.

DAVID PYOTT Adviser United Migrant Workers Interim Trust