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Hong Kong: Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Philippine and Hong Kong governments fail to stop agencies from charging migrant domestic workers illegal fees

Hong Kong: Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Philippine and Hong Kong governments fail to stop agencies from charging migrant domestic workers illegal fees

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by IDWFED published Oct 30, 2016 12:00 AM
Filipino migrant domestic workers are charged illegal fees by unscrupulous employment agencies in both the Philippines and Hong Kong. The practice is widespread and government systems to prevent such illegal activities are not fit for purpose. As a result, many migrant domestic workers have little choice but to pay these exorbitant fees and are heavily indebted, making it difficult to leave exploitative and abusive employers.

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HONG KONG -

PRESS RELEASE
30 October 2016, 03:30 UTC / 11:30 Hong Kong

Filipino migrant domestic workers are charged illegal fees by unscrupulous employment agencies in both the Philippines and Hong Kong. The practice is widespread and government systems to prevent such illegal activities are not fit for purpose. As a result, many migrant domestic workers have little choice but to pay these exorbitant fees and are heavily indebted, making it difficult to leave exploitative and abusive employers.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place, a report and short documentary film published today by the Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers - Hong Kong (PLUDWHK) and Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union (FADWU), documents the illegal activities of employment agencies in the Philippines and Hong Kong, and the failure of both governments to protect the rights of Filipino migrant domestic workers.

"Our research clearly demonstrates that significant numbers of agencies are systematically charging Filipino migrant domestic workers fees well in excess of the legal maximum. Yet despite this, very few are ever charged and prosecuted in the Philippines or Hong Kong," said Shiella Estrada, Chair of the PLUDW-HK.

Although Filipino employment agencies are prohibited from charging placement fees, 84% of the Filipino migrant domestic workers interviewed paid an average of PHP52,644 (US$1,135) in fees. In addition, agencies in the Philippines frequently force experienced domestic workers to undergo unnecessary training in order to increase their profits.

In Hong Kong, where employment agencies are only allowed to charge 10% of the domestic worker's first month's salary or HK$431 (US$56), the average paid by interviewees was HK$11,321 (US$1,459) or the equivalent of more than 25 times the legal limit.

"The charging of illegal fees by Hong Kong agencies leaves Filipino migrant domestic workers with huge debts. This in turn makes it even more difficult for them to challenge exploitative practices that they frequently experience. Although our research focused on Filipino domestic workers, other nationals experience similar, even worse, treatment," said Phobsuk Gasing, Chair of FADWU.

Despite attempts by the Philippines and Hong Kong governments to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers, both governments have failed to adequately monitor, prosecute and punish employment agencies that act illegally. Between 2014 and 2015, Hong Kong’s Labour Department only secured 10 convictions for overcharging. Agencies convicted of overcharging or unlicensed operation were fined HK$1,500 to HK$45,000 (US$193 to US$5,800). It is not surprising then that a significant number of Hong Kong agencies are blatantly charging illegal fees with little fear of reprisal.

"The government systems to police the agencies in the Philippines and Hong Kong are not fit for purpose. The agencies know that they are unlikely to get caught charging illegal fees. They hide their criminal activities by using loan companies to collect the fees and refusing to issue receipts to the domestic workers. Even for those few who are caught, the fine is insignificant so it does not act as an effective deterrent," said Shiella Estrada.

It is not uncommon for employment agencies in Hong Kong to send Filipino migrant domestic workers to Macau to wait for their new work visa to be arranged. These agencies exploit this situation by charging, once again, illegal agency fees.

PLU’s covert recordings at 10 employment agencies across Hong Kong show that some agency staff will openly state fees above the legal maximum to migrant domestic workers who enquire about their services. All agencies in the recordings violated Hong Kong’s Employment Ordinance in at least one instance, including charging illegal fees and demanding payment before the workers had received their first month’s salary.

"These illegal practices have been going on for far too long. The Philippine and Hong Kong governments are fully aware but so far have lacked the political will to act. They must now take concerted action to stop these illegal and unethical activities," said Phobsuk Gasing.

Background

Between October 2015 and June 2016, the Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers - Hong Kong (PLUDW-HK) carried out in-depth interviews with 68 Filipino migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong and Macau, and conducted secret recordings at 10 different employment agencies in Hong Kong, posing as recently terminated migrant domestic workers seeking new employment.

The report and film, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, published today provide evidence of how agencies in both the Philippines and Hong Kong are charging illegal fees to Filipino domestic workers. They also outline the failings by government agencies in both territories to provide adequate protection for the workers and effectively punish unscrupulous agencies. This report is a follow-up to License to Exploit: A Report on Recruitment Practices and Problems Experienced by Filipino Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong, published in 2013 by the Alliance of Progressive Labor in the Philippines (APL), Alliance of Progressive Labor - Hong Kong (APL-HK) and the Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers - Hong Kong (PLUDW-HK).

The 2013 report was based on interviews with 1,200 Filipino domestic workers. Interviewees named 245 agencies in Hong Kong and 190 in the Philippines, which they used in order to obtain work in Hong Kong. The report documented that agencies in both the Philippines and Hong Kong were systemically levying illegal recruitment fees on Filipino migrant domestic workers.

The report and film were produced in partnership with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF). Research and campaign support was provided by Rights Exposure.

For media enquiries, please contact:

  • Shiella Estrade, Chair, PLUDW-HK (English and Tagalog enquiries)
    Mobile: +852 6674 0696
    Email: shiellag0066@gmail.com
  • Robert Godden, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Rights Exposure (English enquiries)
    Mobile: +852 6535 9446
    Email: robgodden@rightsexposure.org
  • Leo Tang, Organising Secretary, HKCTU (Cantonese enquiries)
    Mobile: +852 6489 6536
    Email: leo.tang@hkctu.org.hk

左右為難、進退維谷
港菲政府無力保障 放任中介肆意剝削家務工
菲律賓移民家務工於香港與菲律賓被收取非法中介費之情況

新聞稿
2016 年10 月30 日,03:30 UTC/11:30 香港

菲律賓及香港的無良中介公司普遍向菲籍家務工收取非法中介費,但兩地政府針對此情況的措施,並不切合所須。 衆多移民家務工在沒有選擇下,被迫以貸款支付龐大的費用,以致她們需要工資還清大筆債項,於是即使遭到僱主剝削或虐待,亦難以離開。

進步勞工工會(PLUDW-HK)及香港亞洲家務工工會聯會(FADWU)今日發佈《左右為難 進退維谷》報告短片,揭示港菲兩地中介公司的違法行為,及兩地政府保護菲籍家務工不力之實據。

進步勞工工會主席Shiella Estrada 表示:「我們的研究清楚指出,大量中介公司有系統地向菲籍家務工徵收遠高於法定標準的費用,然而只有極少在菲律賓或香港被起訴。」

雖然菲律賓政府已立例禁止當地中介公司收取介紹費,是次調查顯示仍有高達八成四的受訪菲律賓家務工須支付平均52,644 披索 (1,135 美元)的費用。此外,中介公司為了賺取更高利潤,往往要求有經驗的家務工自費參加無必要的職業訓練。

香港法例下,僱傭中心收取的中介費上限爲家務工首月工資的一成,即港幣431 元(56 美元)。可是調查發現,受訪者平均須支付港幣11,321 元 (1,459 美元), 即高達法定標準的25 倍。

香港亞洲家務工工會主席 Phobsuk Gasing 表示:「香港中介公司收取不法費用,往往導致菲籍家務工身負巨債;即使她們經常遭到剝削,亦因此而難以反抗。雖然我們的研究集中調查菲籍家務工的情況,但其他外籍家務工亦經歷相似、甚至更糟的情況。」

縱使菲律賓及香港政府均有就移民家務工的權益立法,但兩地政府卻未能有效監察、檢控和懲治違法之中介公司。2014至2015 年間,香港勞工處僅成功檢控十宗超收中介費的個案,而因超收中介費或無牌經營被定罪的中介公司,罰款只是港幣1,500至45,000 元 (198 至5,800 美元)。難怪不少香港中介公司無懼後果,公然收取違法費用。

Shiella Estrada 解釋:「菲律賓及香港兩地政府監管中介公司的政策並無實際效力。中介公司知道他們被檢控違法收費的機會很微。為了隱藏罪行,他們會利用財務公司收取還款,及拒絕向家務工發收據。即使有少數能成功檢控,罰款亦是輕得沒有任何阻嚇力。」

香港僱傭公司送菲籍家務工到澳門等侯安排工作簽證的做法並不罕見,而中介亦可利用這個機會再次索取非法的費用。從進步勞工工會在十間本地中介公司進行的秘密錄影中可見,部份中介公司職員公然向查詢服務的外籍家務工索取超過法定上限的收費。所有被秘密錄影的中介公司,均至少違反香港僱傭條例中一項,包括收取非法費用,及要求移工在收到首月薪金前付費。

Phobsuk Gasing 表示:「這些非法手段存在了太久,港菲兩地政府充份了解情況,但今無心行動。兩地政府應協力取締這些違法又無良的行為。」

背景

2015 年至2016 年間,進步勞工工會(PLUDW-HK)對68 名在香港及澳門的菲籍家務工進行了深入訪談,並假扮成最近解約的移民家務工,於香港十間不同的僱傭中心求職,進行秘密錄影。

今日公佈的報告和短片 《 左右為難 進退維谷》,就菲律賓及香港兩地中介公司向菲籍家務工收取違法費用的情況提供證據,並揭示兩地政府部門無力保護工人和懲治無良中介的現實。

本報告跟進菲律賓進步勞工聯盟(APL)、香港進步勞工聯盟(APL-HK)及進步勞工工會(PLUDW-HK)於2013 年發佈題爲《持牌剝削:香港菲籍家務工面對的僱傭手法和問題》的報告中所揭發的情況。2013 年的報告根據對1,200 名菲籍家務工進行的訪問,點名指出協助她們於香港求職的245間香港及190間菲律賓中介公司。該報告記錄了菲港兩地的中介公司有系統地向菲律賓家務工榨取違法介紹費的事實。

本報告和短片由職工盟、國際家務工聯會共同製作,並由Rights Exposure提供研究及倡議活動支援。

媒體查詢,請聯絡:

  • 鄧建華,職工盟組織幹事(廣東話)
    手提電話:+852 6489 6536
    電郵:leo.tang@hkctu.org.hk
  • Shiella Estrada, Chair, PLUDW-HK (English and Tagalog enquiries)
    Mobile: +852 6674 0696
    Email: shiellag0066@gmail.com
  • Robert Godden, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Rights Exposure (English enquiries)
    Mobile: +852 6535 9446
    Email: robgodden@rightsexposure.org

Source: Report & Film: Between a rock and a hard place (ENG & CHINESE)

Story Type: News

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