Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Philippines to bring in ban on Hong Kong domestic helpers cleaning windows

Consulate orders its citizens’ contracts must state the task not allowed, but says only local government can bring in full ban

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 10:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 10:55am

The Philippines consulate will effectively ban window cleaning by domestic helpers arriving in Hong Kong from the country, after several helpers plunged to their deaths from the city’s high-rises over the past months.

From October 15, contracts signed by Filipino domestic helpers will have to state that cleaning the outside of windows is not part of their duties.

The Indonesian consulate is considering a similar move, its labour consul told the Post.

Philippine labour attaché Jalilo Dela Torre said the consulate already recommended employers and workers agree on excluding the task from duties.

Dela Torre noted only the Hong Kong government could bring in a full ban covering workers of different nationalities. The consulate and the government were set to meet today to discuss the matter.

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In September, Philippine labour minister Silvestre Bello, and his local counterpart Matthew Cheung Kin-chung didn’t reach an agreement. “I don’t think the Hong Kong government refused [the idea]. They recommended the safety education to be enhanced,” Dela Torre said. “But we feel prohibition would be a more effective strategy.”

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, welcomed the consulate’s decision.

“I think introducing this sort of clause is a step towards the total ban on window cleaning, but it’s not enough. The government should do something about it... Actually, the Hong Kong government should have taken the lead to protect the workers in Hong Kong,” he said, noting that also employers would be better protected. He said other consulates following the Philippines’ lead “would speed up the process.”

Indonesian consul for manpower and labour Iroh Baroroh said the consulate was still discussing the issue.“We also think that cleaning windows is a job for professionals and not for domestic workers... We are considering to send a recommendation next week to agencies and employers to include a clause saying that domestic workers should not clean windows ,” she said.

A spokesman for the labour department said the government would “step up publicity and educational efforts for both employers and employees to raise their safety awareness.” He said “all employers have the responsibility of ensuring a safe working environment for their employees.”

In August, a Filipino helper fell to her death cleaning the windows of her employer’s flat. At least five other helpers died this year from work accidents or suicide.

Thousands of domestic workers took to the streets in September calling for a ban on cleaning windows. There are about 345,000 foreign domestic workers in the city – most of them from the Philippines or Indonesia. Singapore tightened rules on window cleaning in 2012.