Helpers dispute end of transport subsidies
A domestic workers' group has threatened to protest after officials yesterday rejected their request to extend a transport subsidy scheme due to end in March next year.
Local domestic helpers can claim a 'special incentive allowance' of up to HK$50 a day to cover their travel costs if they work outside their home district, work after 5pm or on weekends, through a scheme launched by the Labour Department in June 2003 to reduce unemployment among women.
The workers can claim up to HK$7,200 a year for a maximum of two years.
Labour Department officials said yesterday in a meeting with the group that it had no plan to support the helpers at the end of the scheme, which they said was only meant to be a temporary measure.
But Ip Pui-yu, general secretary of the Domestic Workers' General Union, said 10,000 helpers relied on the subsidy to help cover travel expenses and would be forced to quit when it ended.
She threatened to take the issue to the Legislative Council, and said the union might stage a protest.
A spokesman for the Labour Department said it could only comment once the protest was planned.
Officials told Ms Ip, a fellow unionist, and five helpers that the labour market for helpers had improved, with the number of job requests registered with the Employees' Retraining Board having almost tripled from 10,000 in 2003 to 28,000 last year.
They claimed the monthly salary of a helper was HK$6,600.
Countering, Ms Ip said: 'I don't know how they came up with the figure. A helper at most earns HK$2,000 to HK$3,000 a month.'
She said that despite the rise in job orders, only half of 100,000 locals trained as helpers had work.
'We are all very disappointed the government hasn't thought of long-term policies on how to help local maids and women out of poverty,' she said.