Hundreds march against ruling on Filipino maid

About 1,500 people marched from Wan Chai to government headquarters yesterday to protest against a court ruling in favour of the right of abode for domestic helpers.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, which organised the march, said local workers could lose their jobs if a large number of migrant domestic helpers were given abode.

The demonstrators were joined at the Tamar site by the New Territories Association of Societies, which collected 16,000 signatures in support.

'We are not discriminating against migrant domestic helpers, as they are workers and we want to protect them too,' federation chairman Pan Pey-chyou, said. 'We are targeting the government because we are worried that they are not doing enough to protect the interests of local workers. If Hong Kong has to absorb such a large influx of migrants all of a sudden, it will negatively impact the job market for local workers.'

The protesters called for the government to appeal against the court decision granting right of abode to Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a ruling that could set a precedent for thousands of other migrant workers.

Pan cited a survey by the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association that showed an overwhelming majority of migrant domestic helpers would apply for right of abode if there was a chance of it being granted. He said current restrictions should be maintained, warning that migrant workers' command of English could put local workers at a disadvantage. 'In the service sector, local workers will be at a disadvantage if migrant workers enter the job market,' he said.

Sheilla Grace Estrada, chairwoman of the Alliance of Progressive Labour, said helpers faced discrimination regardless of their command of English. 'We are fighting for a right of abode for all domestic helpers,' she said. 'We think this is class discrimination, not just race discrimination. People are against migrant domestic helpers obtaining right of abode.'

Around 200 domestic helpers took part in a candlelight vigil in support of the court ruling in Chater Garden last night.