Freeze on sending Filipino helpers down to recruiters'drive for profit, groups say

Organiser of petition to Philippine president over recruitnment agencies' action, now ended, says dispute was just a fight for a bigger share of fees

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 March, 2013, 6:47pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 March, 2013, 5:47am

A recent disruption in the supply of Filipino workers was nothing more than a dispute between recruitment agencies in Hong Kong and the Philippines as to who should get the bigger share of placement fees, organisers of a petition against the freeze say.

A society representing domestic-helper agencies in the Philippines last week lifted a weeks-old ban on sending workers to Hong Kong.

The moratorium began on February 27 in protest at Manila's ban on levying placement fees, which stops agencies from collecting a month of a helper's salary in Hong Kong for each new placement that is secured. It had banned such fees years ago.

The Society of Hong Kong Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (Sharp) said it ended the moratorium on Wednesday.

Sharp had claimed the boycott was to force Hong Kong agencies to make local employers pay the full costs of the deployments, instead of passing that on to the workers.

But one of the petition's organisers, Daisy Mandap, said the dispute reflected an attempt by agencies to increase their profits.

"Forcing both employers and workers to go through recruiters when they could lawfully process their own employment contracts serves no other purpose than to unjustly enrich the agencies," said Mandap.

The petition, endorsed by more than 100 community organisations, was sent more than a week ago to Philippine President Benigno Aquino. It called for direct hiring in Hong Kong to be enforced, and punishment for recruitment agencies found to be violating the government's "no placement fee" policy for Filipino workers abroad.

A total of 114 organisations - including the Mission for Migrant Workers, the Filipino Chaplaincy in Hong Kong and The Sun Writers Club - and 15 individuals agreed to sign the petition.

Sharp had said a "substantial number" of agencies had agreed to stop pursuing the reinstatement of the fee. But Mandap said she knew of very few agencies that agreed with Sharp.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, vice-chairwoman of the General Chamber of Manpower Agencies, which represents 300 Hong Kong job placement firms, called Sharp's move an excuse to end a moratorium on recruitment that was harming the Philippine agencies' business.