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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Domestic helpers union stages rally outside Philippine consulate in Hong Kong over labour ban

An estimated 15,000 outbound workers seeking employment worldwide are now in limbo as three-week suspension is under way

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 3:07pm

Members of a union for Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong staged a rally outside the Philippine consulate in Admiralty on Wednesday, demanding compensation for those bound for the city but affected by a labour export ban in their home country.

On the third day of a three-week suspension of the overseas employment certificate by the Philippine government, an estimated 15,000 outbound Filipino workers who are seeking employment worldwide are now stuck in limbo, jobless and in debt.

Locally, 20 members of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, a union of 6,000 domestic helpers in the city, are calling for full compensation from the Philippine government for the loss of income for those affected. They are also urging city authorities to press for the ban to be lifted.

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The overseas employment certificate is necessary for all outbound workers from the archipelago nation to seek work abroad, including domestic helpers.

The Philippines’ labour and employment department announced the ban last Friday, citing “persistent reports of illegal recruitment” and “pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos”.

Union chairwoman Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said an estimated 75,000 outgoing workers seeking employment worldwide – including those in nursing and skilled labour – would be affected by the ban. Besides Hong Kong, their other intended destinations include Singapore, Malaysia, Europe and the Middle East.

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About 210 Hong Kong-bound domestic helpers are unable to come to the city.

Hong Kong Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong earlier said the ban could affect about 1,000 local families.

This is a double burden for the workers. They now have no income and don’t know when they can start working
Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, United Filipinos in Hong Kong

“The workers are now jobless and caught in debt as they have already borrowed money to pay Filipino agency and training fees ranging from HK$10,000 to HK$15,000,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

“This is a double burden for the workers. They now have no income and don’t know when they can start working. They are also worried Hong Kong employers will change their minds and hire someone else.”

“The Philippine government failed to provide us with decent jobs back home and unemployment is high. That’s why we have to work overseas,” Balladares-Pelaez said. “Although I agree they should curtail illegal immigration activities, they should not affect the livelihood of outbound workers.”

On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said: “I, alongside the chief secretary and the secretary for labour and welfare, are all very concerned about the issue and have been consistently in touch with the Philippine consul general in Hong Kong.”

A day before, Jalilo Dela Torre, Philippine consulate labour attaché, said it had received complaints accusing four local agencies of illegally channelling domestic helpers to Russia, Mongolia and Turkey. But he added that it had nothing to do with the suspension.