The Filipino domestic worker who was fired last month after being diagnosed with cervical cancer has finally started treatment, but her attempts at legal recourse from the Hong Kong government are still facing hurdles. Baby Jane Allas, 38, started chemotherapy on Thursday – after she managed to crowdfund more than HK$800,000 for her treatment. But, on Wednesday, her first hearing at the Labour Department on her complaints against her employer did not go smoothly. Jessica Cutrera, a long-time Hong Kong resident who employs Allas’ sister and is helping the cancer-stricken domestic worker, described the session that ran for almost three hours as“unfair” and “problematic”. We Are Like Air: life as a Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong “Baby Jane was told by the Labour Department that she had to show up in person herself. Her employer didn’t show up because they said they were ill,” Cutrera told the South China Morning Post . “Baby Jane has advanced cancer. She is very sick. Yet she had to appear in person but her employer did not. It seems very unfair.” Allas, who has stage three cervical cancer, said she was left “exhausted” and concerned after the discussion. The single mother of five filed her complaint to the Labour Department late last month, arguing that her employers gave her a dismissal letter on February 17 while she was on medical leave. But the letter was only effective two days later, leaving her at risk of losing access to Hong Kong’s free medical care. Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong fired after employer found out she has cervical cancer Allas also claimed her employer committed several contract violations during the 15 months she worked for them, such as not giving her one full day off each week and failing to provide basic necessities, including a bed. According to Cutrera, the employer was represented by two lawyers at the meeting. However, Allas was not allowed to bring her lawyer and went to the meeting by herself, accompanied by her sister and representatives from the Philippine Consulate General. “We were told that this meeting would not include attorneys … but the other side brought lawyers. They were represented by two attorneys,” Cutrera said. “Had we known, we would have also arranged for Baby Jane’s legal counsel to be there and support her too.” “The rules on this were fairly clear, so I don’t understand why,” Cutrera said. “They did not even tell Baby Jane and her sister that these were in fact her employer’s lawyers until the end. Allowing the other side to bring in attorneys and not allowing Baby Jane to know she has the right to bring one, it’s simply unfair.” Allas – who is not fluent in English – was not assisted by an interpreter, although Cutrera said the Labour Department had promised to arrange one. “We specifically requested a translator for her well in advance and we were told that one would be provided, but it was not,” she said. Migrant domestic workers prop up Hong Kong’s economy, so why are they excluded? “When you have someone who is vulnerable, especially someone who is vulnerable and ill, and has less ability to advocate for themselves, it’s really important that the system treats them fairly and helps to level the playing field,” Cutrera said. She added that despite Allas’ condition, she was still pushed to sign documents. “You cannot have someone who is clearly ill and as a result tired and incapacitated to sign legal documents. It’s completely inappropriate. And it’s the Labour Department’s job to step in. It’s pretty obvious that she was not completely coherent.” A spokesman for the Labour Department said the bureau was a “neutral intermediary”. “Upon learning from the employer around noon on the day of the conciliation meeting that they could not come and would send a legal representative instead, we called Ms Allas immediately to convey the information,” he said. “Before the commencement of the conciliation meeting, we again introduced the representation of both parties to each other, and both parties agreed to have the meeting.” Cutrera confirmed they were told Allas’ former employer would send representatives, but she insisted that they did not know the representatives would be lawyers. The advocate also noted they were notified about the change at 12pm for a meeting that was to start at 2.15pm. “Even if Baby Jane had known that they were bringing attorneys, she would have no time to arrange her own attorney,” Cutrera said. Singapore’s foreign domestic workers vulnerable to forced labour, report finds The Labour Department spokesman also said the bureau had arranged interpretation for Allas over the phone, but this solution was not adopted because of the presence of staff from the Philippine Consulate. “With the representatives of the Philippine Consulate being fluent in both Ms Allas’ native tongue and English, and [the fact] that the Consulate representatives are meant to assist Ms Allas, both parties agreed to have the interpretation assistance provided by the representatives of the Philippine Consulate,” the spokesman said. However, Allas and her sister said they had been told that the department forgot about arranging translation. The case has now been referred to the Labour Tribunal, and administrative procedures are set to begin on Monday, although no hearing has been scheduled yet. Allas’ employer did not respond to the Post ’s request for comments. She has also raised a separate claim with the Equal Opportunities Commission, arguing that it is illegal to discriminate against someone who has a disability. The commission has requested additional information. The Post first exposed Allas’ case on March 3 , highlighting the plight of other domestic workers who had their employment terminated in Hong Kong after being diagnosed with serious diseases. Such workers are often left with no access to the city’s free health care system and little chance of fighting their cases in court. ‘I don’t know what her role is in my life’: filmmaker reflects on unique dynamic domestic helpers bring to Hong Kong families Allas, who is frail and has bouts of pain and headaches, said any surplus money from the amount that has been raised for her treatment should go towards raising awareness of cervical cancer, so more women could be screened early. Cutrera said they had already scheduled meetings with the Karen Leung Foundation, an organisation that works to reduce the impact of gynaecological cancers, and Pathfinders, which supports migrant women. Cervical cancer kills more than 300,000 women worldwide every year.