• Sat
  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 10:00pm
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih
NewsHong Kong
LABOUR RIGHTS

Maid live-in rule must stay, says labour chief Matthew Cheung

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 5:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 10:41am
 

Poll

  • Yes: 72%
  • No: 28%
19 Jan 2014
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 322

Labour chief Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has flatly rejected calls to lift the live-in rule for foreign domestic helpers.

Last week's news that another maid had been abused sparked the latest demands from domestic helpers to allow them to live away from their bosses.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, says she was tortured by her female employer at the Tseung Kwan O home where she lived and worked for eight months.

She is now in hospital at home in Indonesia, recovering from injuries that left her unable to walk.

Dismissing helpers' demands, the labour minister insisted the requirement to live-in was a key condition that had been agreed upon by his bureau, the Security Bureau, and the Immigration Department.

"This is a matter of principle," Cheung said, adding that Hong Kong's 330,000 foreign domestic helpers were subject to less stringent rules than many others because there was a shortage of live-in maids.

To allow them to live elsewhere would overlap with the market for local domestic helpers, who do housework during the day or on hourly rates.

"Anyone who is deprived or abused should report the cases, as it is their right," Cheung said.

"We will pursue cases and penalise employers breaking the law."

Authorities will step up communication with employment agencies to ensure helpers are advised of their rights and the need to seek help as soon as possible if they are mistreated.

Police were initially accused of ignoring Erwiana's complaint, saying that they would not investigate further as her employment agency had failed to provide evidence.

A chief inspector, two senior inspectors and an officer are due to leave for the city of Sragen in Java tomorrow to investigate the case.

The Confederation of Trade Unions yesterday campaigned in Tsuen Wan for more rights for maids, while Amnesty International also added its voice.

Protesters also gathered outside Chan's Asia Recruitment Centre, the agency that introduced Erwiana to her employer.

The dozen or so demonstrators accused the agency of demanding Erwiana settle all outstanding placement fees before allowing her to leave Hong Kong, but a company spokesman rejected the claims.

Denise Wong Wan-sze, one of the protesters, asked for a review of the fees, which could add up to six months' salary. Wong also called for the live-in requirement to be abolished. "Living with your employer means being on standby round the clock," she said.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for Operation Migrants' Rescue Compatriots, said the International Labour Organisation's Domestic Workers Convention stated that living in should be optional. China has yet to ratify the convention.

In September, Catherine Au Yuk-shan was jailed for five and a half years, and her husband, Tai Chi-wai, for three years and three months for subjecting their Indonesian helper, Kartika Puspitasari, to two years of abuse.

Meanwhile, a 46-year-old woman was arrested last night for common assault after her domestic worker complained that the woman had assaulted her.

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20

This article is now closed to comments

Yknot
The two week rule must be abolished. If a helper reports abuse the employer will fire her. With no job she must leave Hong Kong within two weeks yet she still owes the agency illegally imposed fees which will take her years to pay off if she has to go home to Indonesia.
.
Abolish the two week rule.
mdap
If an apartment does not have a seperate maids quarters, with private toilet and sleeping area, then that employer should not be allowed to hire a domestic helper; it is entirely not right that anyone is forced to sleep in a cupboard or on the floor of a kitchen or toilet. Apartments under a certain size, say 1,000sq ft should also be banned from having live in helpers. More screening of employers needs for a domestic helper is also required; being able to pay the basic salary is not enough; our helpers have been with us for years, the Sheko house has happy workers who virtually run the house like a small company; the house on the Peak has three maids who are all happy - they have total independence from us, and on their days off, they are never called upon to work. The need for domestic help should be based on more than the vanity of an employer and any employer who beats his maid should be jailed for years! There is no excuse for beating anyone!
josephyang
@daily - don't blame Leung on Matthew Cheung - yeah, he is a f*cking moron, but he is also a leftover of the Donald Tsang administration, sadly, the Central Government has not given Leung free rein to replace all members of the Donald Tsang administration, as long as those corrupt officials cannot be replaced, Leung will never be successful.
However, first on the list for replacement is probably not Matthew Cheung but John Tsang.
HK-Explorer
Someone asks below where to find local maids. Very easy, you can ask the security guards of your building. Or you can go to the labour department. They post the details there and most have training. Expect to pay a HK $60 to HK $70 per hour and minimum 3 hours at a time. They do cooking, cleaning, ironing etc.. There are also some agencies. Often the company that cleans your building has a website that you can find this service. We have had them on and off over the last 16 years. (If you add it together maybe 5 years of a local helper). Never had any trouble.
Minimum wage is $30 per hour so there are ample available for $60 + per hour.
Good is they go home when you get home. No air tickets / agency also you don't provide food or a room. There there, just need to put in a couple of hours work finding one. (If you start now you can have one start tomorrow - it is that easy)
HK-Explorer
Someone asks below where to find local maids. Very easy, you can ask the security guards of your building. Or you can go to the labour department. They post the details there and most have training. Expect to pay a HK $60 to HK $70 per hour and minimum 3 hours at a time. They do cooking, cleaning, ironing etc.. There are also some agencies. Often the company that cleans your building has a website that you can find this service. We have had them on and off over the last 16 years. (If you add it together maybe 5 years of a local helper). Never had any trouble.
Minimum wage is $30 per hour so there are ample available for $60 + per hour.
Good is they go home when you get home. No air tickets / agency also you don't provide food or a room. There there, just need to put in a couple of hours work finding one. (If you start now you can have one start tomorrow - it is that easy)
daily
This labour chief is just another idiot on Leung's administration................I mean, this guy is a really big IDIOT!
Dai Muff
Keep the live-in rule if you must but BE HIGHLY FLEXIBLE IN CASES WHERE AIDS AND EMPLOYERS HAVE CONFLICTS. The current system allows employers to get away with hell.
chuchu59
I find it worrying that the labour chief cannot come up with a decent reason for not abolishing the live-in rule and instead says it cannot be altered as a matter of principle. So what if this has been agreed among 2 bureaux and the Immigration Department. If the mistreatment cases are real then the live-in requirement needs to come under scrutiny. Brushing it off by saying its a matter of principle is hardly convincing.
DinGao
It is very difficult for neighbou to inform on neighbour in respect of maid abuse. The Labour Department should cooperate more closely with the Immigration Department to ensure that maids are fully advised of their rights and given information on domestic servant support groups etc.
johnyuan
To Din....
.
'It is very difficult for neighbou to inform on neighbour in respect of maid abuse.'
.
Why? Please explain.
.
It is not that I don't use domastic maid and has nothing for my neighbor to call the police in this regard, but I will do so of my neighbor when a crime is being committed or underway. At least this is what my schooling has done for me.

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