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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Domestic helpers on the march in Hong Kong to demand better living and working conditions

Ahead of International Domestic Workers’ Day, migrant body calls on government to include provisions in employment contracts for ‘humane and safe’ accommodation and standard rest hours

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 9:34pm

About 30 domestic workers and their supporters in Hong Kong marched from Admiralty MTR station to the nearby government headquarters on Thursday to demand better living and working conditions ahead of International Domestic Workers’ Day on Saturday.

The Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body, an alliance of migrants’ groups from Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, which organised the protest, called on the government to include provisions in foreign domestic workers’ employment contracts for “humane and safe” accommodation and standard rest hours.

The body’s spokeswoman, Dolores Balladares, said helpers typically had to work 12 to 16 hours a day, and be on call for 24 hours, and some could not even rest properly in the short time they had.

“Some domestic workers are sleeping along the corridors, in toilets, on top of the washing machines and even on the rooftop in a building where the employer’s home is located,” she said.

“How can we do our work if we cannot rest properly?”

As such, the group called for “suitable accommodation” to be defined in employment contracts, and for the documents to list what is unsuitable, such as toilets, kitchens and balconies.

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It also urged the government to stipulate in the contracts the provision of an 11-hour uninterrupted rest in between two consecutive working days, plus meal breaks.

Another spokeswoman, Sringatin, said the government should also include a penalty clause stating the accountability of employers who breach these stipulations.

She added that domestic workers who have their contracts terminated due to such unfair treatment should be allowed to stay in Hong Kong until they find their next job.

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Doris Lee, chairwoman of Open Door, a group which promotes respect between domestic workers, employers and the wider public, said that since Hongkongers hoped to have enough rest at their workplaces, the same should apply for helpers.

“They are helping our families and they are staying away from their own families to do this work,” said Lee, who employs a helper.

A government representative received a petition with the group’s demands addressed to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

The group said it would collect signatures and submit them to the government later this year. It is targeting 38,000, which is about 10 per cent of the domestic worker population in Hong Kong.