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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong vow to fight plan for mandatory HK$1,200 insurance

Manila wants to impose additional insurance requirement on those heading abroad for work, and helpers fear it will be themselves rather than employers who end up footing the bill

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2018, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2018, 8:31am

Filipino workers’ groups in Hong Kong have vowed to fight tooth and nail against a plan by Manila to make domestic helpers take out insurance costing HK$1,200 (US$153) before heading abroad.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong called the policy “just another moneymaking scheme at the expense of already overburdened workers”.

The group said it was planning a major street protest and would request a meeting with the Philippine consul general.

Employers meanwhile said there were already insurance plans in place for domestic helpers, and the new directive would add to the burden of bosses.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has stipulated that employers would be responsible for the one-off HK$1,200 fee, but workers said there was no guarantee bosses would pay.

All workers will need to provide a certificate of insurance coverage before registering with the government office and being given the green light to head to Hong Kong for employment.

“This could very well cost us our jobs,” said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairwoman of United Filipinos.

Pelaez said tensions between workers and employers over who should foot the bill could result in some being sacked, while other helpers would simply choose to pay themselves to avoid conflict.

The minimum wage for Hong Kong’s 380,000 foreign domestic workers is HK$4,520 per month.

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United Filipinos would hold talks with several other workers’ groups on Sunday to plan for a major protest calling for the order to be scrapped, Pelaez said.

“We will have discussions on Sunday to explain the mandatory insurance plan, and will stage a huge action, definitely. We will reach out to other organisations so we can come up with one position to scrap the rule.”

A meeting with Philippine consul general Antonio Morales would be another of their demands, she added.

Pelaez said domestic helpers already had to pay for PhilHealth, a state-run insurance programme.

“But when you make a claim, you only use one insurance plan,” she said.

“There is also no mechanism to ensure employers will pay for it ... We already take home so little of our pay, yet you want to take away the equivalent of almost 30 per cent of a month’s salary for this superfluous fee.”

She said workers would not take the order lying down.

“We will continue to fight until this mandatory insurance plan is scrapped,” Pelaez said.

Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, chairwoman of the 3,000-member Employers of Domestic Helpers Association, said it would be “unfair” to expect employers to take out further insurance for helpers.

Bosses already spent at least HK$1,000 on insurance premiums, Yung said, as required by the Philippine consulate.

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Under Philippine law the insurance can only be secured from an accredited insurer in the Southeast Asian nation, and it is required for all first-time domestic workers.

“Usually employers buy [comprehensive] insurance, not only for work-related injuries but also to repatriate helpers’ remains were they to die in Hong Kong,” Yung said. “It also covers medical treatment.”

It was unclear why the Philippine government would impose another insurance requirement, she said. “The burden on employers is growing.”

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration administrator Bernard Olalia told Philippine media the office was still working on implementing the relevant rules and regulations before fully enforcing the new mandatory insurance policy.