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HK OFWs protest proposed policy to keep them from leaving bad employers

Kaycee Valmonte – Philstar.com

March 22, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Migrante HK) are protesting the possible implementation of new regulations that would curtail the movement of overseas Filipino workers deployed there as domestic helpers. 

This comes after Hong Kong’s Department of Labour kicked off a public consultation on a policy related to the termination of migrant domestic workers (MDW) contracts and implementing stringent measures on them changing employers. Lawmakers are proposing to regulate the termination of contracts to prevent MDWs from leaving their employers and changing jobs.

“[If] we are treated justly and humanely, our working conditions [are] good and our rights as migrant workers inside our employer’s household [are upheld] and protected,” said Dolores Balladares, chairperson of UNIFIL-Migrante HK, “no migrant domestic worker will be forced to terminate a contract and we will not think of leaving our job.”

Some migrant workers leave their employers due to bad or abusive working conditions and are not able to complete their two-year contract. According to the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, some lawmakers have accused MDWs of “job-hopping” instead of failing to recognize that some of them have inhumane working conditions.

The group also said there were “many instances” where employers will suddenly terminate contracts, without good reason. The Hong Kong government’s immigration agency does not require valid reasons for contract termination, leaving MDWs stranded and vulnerable in the special administrative region.

Help from the consulate

UNIFIL-Migrante HK also scored the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong for their supposed silence on the issue and for allegedly ignoring the need to defend the rights of Filipino migrant domestic helpers.

“Though we understand the protocols between Hong Kong and the Philippine government, Philippine Consulate General Raly Tejada should at least help in clarifying the issue and voice the sentiments of Filipino migrant domestic workers under attack,” UNIFIL-Migrante HK’s statement read. 

Tejada on Wednesday afternoon told Philstar.com that the consulate has been working with the Hong Kong government, adding that they have been tackling the issues through their regular technical working group.

He also said the consulate’s hotline is always open to Filipinos who might need any help. 

“I have on several occasions spoken to no less than Hong Kong Minister of Labor Chris Sun who assured me that the legitimate rights of our workers will be protected,” Tejada said, adding that the consulate will also hold a townhall dialogue with the Filipino community “soon.”

There are currently around 330,000 foreign domestic helpers employed in Hong Kong, with over half or 190,000 of whom are Filipinos. 

UNIFIL-Migrante HK said they will be joining other groups for a big protest action on May 1, while a petition will be launched on Sunday to get more support from the public.

The groups said they hope more individuals and groups will join them in urging the Hong Kong government to ensure that migrant workers all have just and humane accommodation and living wages. 

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