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Hong Kong: FADWU calls for Hong Kong Government and the public to treat migrant domestic workers fairly

Hong Kong: FADWU calls for Hong Kong Government and the public to treat migrant domestic workers fairly

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by IDWFED published Mar 22, 2020 12:00 AM
FADWU urges the Government and the public to understand that fighting the pandemic requires everyone to work together and care for each other. The Government and the society must fairly treat and care for the nearly 400,000 MDWs in Hong Kong to ensure public health.

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HONG KONG -

English / Chinese

Hong Kong government's compulsory quarantine policy is chaotic

Live-in policy increases risks of infection

FADWU calls for Hong Kong Government and the public to treat migrant domestic workers fairly

Fight against the virus together


Due to the global outbreak of Covid 19, the Hong Kong government has started the implementation of Compulsory Quarantine Law on March 19. People arriving from all regions outside China are required to undergo quarantine at government’s quarantine centres or at own homes. In the past few days, a large number of people came to Hong Kong. Among them are migrant domestic workers (MDWs) and many employers of MDWs and their families. However, the Hong Kong government's quarantine arrangements are not clear. It was reported that an MDW was immediately terminated by her employer after she had arrived in Hong Kong from the Philippines. Such termination is illegal. The Government's arrangement on the compulsory quarantine takes no notice of the live-in situation of MDWs. MDWs feel helpless when their employers are going home and are quarantined. The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) held a press conference to point out the situation of MDWs and express their dissatisfaction with the Government.

Hong Kong Government has a mandatory live-in policy for the hiring of MDWs. MDWs are mandated to reside in the employers' homes unless it is approved by the Commissioner for Labour. After the Government announced the compulsory quarantine requirements on March 18, the Labour Department issued a press release immediately but it only said that "...should an employer wish to arrange the FDH (foreign domestic helpers) to stay out from his/her residence, the employer should make prior arrangement with his/her EA (employment agencies) (if applicable) to accommodate the FDH concerned.".[1] It did not mention a word regarding the arrangement of MDWs when their employers are the ones to be quarantined. On March 20 evening, a returning Filipino MDW was immediately dismissed by her employer upon arrival in Hong Kong. She was not provided with any support by the Government. Only then on March 21, Law Chi-Kwong, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, announced to the public that if an employer provides a hotel as a temporary residence for MDWs who are undergoing quarantine, and the place is one that is permitted by the Department of Health, the employer does not need prior approval from the Commissioner for Labour. However, Mr Law did not explain the salary and food arrangements of the MDWs during their quarantine. He did not mention the compensation for workers when they are illegally dismissed, or the compensation for the loss suffered by the workers who are repatriated upon arrival in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Government and the public only concern about the quarantine arrangements of MDWs arriving in Hong Kong. However, the Government does not mention the situation when MDWs' employers are the ones to be quarantined. FADWU has got many members' inquiries, worrying that their employers will return to Hong Kong within a few days. The Government only issued the "Home Quarantine Guideline for Home Confinee" (hereafter "Guideline"). The Guideline suggests "Home confinee" to "stay in a well-ventilated single room if possible". "Family members should stay in different rooms if possible", and the people should "keep a distance from one another as much as possible". There are no rules, nor any explanation and arrangement for those people who live with home confinees. Many Hong Kong accommodations are small. It is questionable whether the suggestion from the Guideline is feasible or not. For MDWs, how can they keep social distance when they have to do child and elderly care? Many MDWs and employers are at a loss and feel worried about unclear arrangements from the Government.

The FADWU has also got an enquiry from an MDW member whose employer is returning to Hong Kong with the family. They will undergo compulsory home quarantine as required. She has to work under the same roof and take care of the kids. She will feed the kids and take care of their bath. Physical close contacts with them are unavoidable. Another MDW member complains that her employer is returning to Hong Kong. Her employer's baby did not travel abroad, and thus it needs not to be in quarantine. However, the employer who is the mother, the baby and the MDW will all stay at the same home and cannot avoid close contact. All these situations and care work increase the risk of infections. MDWs are also responsible for going out to buy food for the employing families. The pubic health is under threat of infections as well.

Another MDW member reports that although her employer allows her to stay out during the employer's home quarantine, this contradicts the Government mandatory live-in rule. She is worried and not knowing what to do.

Local domestic workers suffer as well in the pandemic. The majority of local domestic workers have lost at least half of their income due to loss of jobs. They also worried that if the employer is in home-quarantine and do not inform the worker. Then they not only face the risk of infections but also made to violate the 559E compulsory quarantine law without knowing. The law states that no one can enter the premises of the person who is home quarantined.

FADWU states that domestic work is a high-risk job. If the employer returns to Hong Kong and is infected with the Coronavirus, MDWs who are live-in workers almost cannot avoid infections. In Brazil, a domestic worker was infected with Covid 19 from her employer who returned home from Italy. She died from the virus on March 17, 2020. In Hong Kong, there are 273 confirmed cases up to date. Seven cases are domestic workers[2]. They are likely to be infected by their employers as their employers are confirmed infections before them.

Being a high-risk work does not mean that more legal protections are in place. It is quite the contrary. Shiella Estrada, the secretary of FADWU, refers to the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap 509) which excludes private households as workplaces. Under the current law, employers of domestic workers have no legal responsibilities to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Employers often ignore the safety and health of domestic workers. Many employers do not provide decent accommodation for MDWs as well. Some MDWs sleep in the same bedroom with their employer's family members or share a bed with the children and the elderly. There are even MDWs who sleep in the living rooms, kitchens or toilets. Civil society organizations and the mass media have repeatedly raised concerns about the accommodation condition of MDWs. They have been pressurizing the Government to revoke the live-in rule. However, the Government is turning blind eyes to the situation and public opinions. Under the Covid 19 pandemic, MDWs have been trying their best to ensure household hygiene of Hong Kong families. They remind employers and their families to pay attention to personal hygiene. However, close contact with employers and their family members are unavoidable. There are also employers and their family members who do not care about personal hygiene. Currently, the Coronavirus is not a listed occupational disease under the law. Domestic workers' protection is at stake if they die from the infection and for the recovery process from the Coronavirus.

Phobsuk Gasing, the chairperson of FADWU, complains of the neglect of the Government on domestic workers since the outbreak of the Coronavirus. The Government's press release which advises MDWs to stay at home has been used by employers as an excuse to exploit the right of MDWs for day-offs. Domestic workers have been working harder to do home cleaning since the outbreak. However, some employers impose unnecessary cleaning work and burden on their domestic workers but at the same time do not allow workers to wear gloves and slippers. The bleach burns MDWs' skin.

FADWU urges the Government and the public to understand that fighting the pandemic requires everyone to work together and care for each other. The Government and the society must fairly treat and care for the nearly 400,000 MDWs in Hong Kong to ensure public health.

FADWU demands:

  1. the Government to abolish the live-in rule and make it clear that if the employer is a quarantined person, MDWs are allowed to live out in residence provided by the employer or the government;
  2. the Government to amend the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance to ensure that employers have the responsibility to protect the occupational safety and health of MDWs;
  3. the Government to list the Coronavirus as an occupational disease under the law, and domestic workers should be covered;
  4. The Centre for Health Protection must check whether the home environment of the quarantine person is suitable for non-quarantine persons to live-in;
  5. The Government and the Department of Health should educate employers to cooperate with their domestic workers and share the workload and responsibility on home and personal hygiene;
  6. the Government to provide unemployment benefit ;
  7. the Government to require employers to notify domestic workers if they are undergoing home quarantine.

FADWU is producing an educational video clip to tell domestic workers and their employers on tips on personal and home hygiene. It is time for employers to work hand-in-hand with domestic workers to combat the Covid 19.

Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions
22 March 2020

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[1]https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202003/18/P2020031800890.htm?fontSize=1

[2]They are case number 61, 90,103,113,116,118 and 155.

 

港府強制檢疫政策混亂 僱主家居隔離 留宿外傭無處去增感染風險

籲港府及公眾 公平對待外傭,僱主外傭同心抗疫 

 

2019冠狀病毒病全球大爆發,香港政府在3月19日零晨實施強制檢疫規例,強制從中國以外所有地區抵港人士接受檢疫,到指定檢疫中心或在家強制隔離。過去數天,大量的抵港人士當中,有新來港及放假後回港的外傭,也有很多外傭的僱主及其家庭。然而,港府檢疫安排有欠週詳,有外傭到港後被僱主即時非法解僱,更求助無門慘變人球。另外,對外傭僱主在強制檢疫下,留宿外傭的安排更雙字不提,令外傭感到十分徬惶無助。香港亞洲家務工工會聯會(下稱「聯會」)就此舉行了記者招待會,以指出外傭處境及表達對政府的不滿。

聯會指出,港府對外傭有強制留宿的規定,除特殊情況獲勞工處處長特別批准外,外傭需居於僱主的處所。港府在3月18日公佈有關強制檢疫規定後,勞工處的新聞稿就外傭安排含混其辭,只說明「僱主應預先與其職業介紹所(如適用)為外傭作出安排」[1],有外傭慘變人球之後,直至昨天(3月21日),勞工及福利局局長羅致光才向公眾說明「因應現時的檢疫要求,如僱主為外傭提供酒店作為臨時居所,並獲衞生署衞生主任批准為合適檢疫居所,便無需另行取到勞工處處長批准。」。可是,羅局長並沒有解釋外傭在隔離期間的薪資及食物安排,更沒有指出如僱主沒有安排住宿,外傭被即時遣返,已受外傭被即時非法解僱,以及新來港外傭的損失由何來付。

港府及公眾只關心外傭抵港的隔離安排,然而,對於外傭僱主強制檢疫情況,政府完全雙字不提。聯會就收到不少會員查詢,指出其僱主將於日內回港,並接受強制檢疫,外傭與僱主同住,港府卻沒有予外傭及其僱主訂明清晰指引及規定,令外傭及僱主不知所措。港府只是發出了「受家居檢疫人士的指引」(以下簡稱「指引」),建議「盡量留在空氣流通的單人房間,家庭成員最好留在家中其他的房間」,「避免與其他家庭成員有親密接觸」等等,對於須要接受家居檢疫人士居所內同住而非需要檢疫人士,沒有規定、沒有解說及安排,而香港很多居所不大,又是否能夠做到「指引」的提議,讓受家居檢疫人士與同住非需要檢疫人士「保持距離」呢?打理大小家務和貼身照顧長者與小孩的外傭,又應如何確保不受僱主感染病毒呢?

聯會收到的會員查詢之中,就有外傭的僱主一家即將回港並須接受家居強制檢疫,而她必須繼續工作並照顧小孩,她要負責孩子們的飲食、洗澡等,孩子們也常常會跟她擁抱,身體接觸無可避免。另一僱主一家也是即將回港的會員說,她僱主的嬰兒沒有隨父母到外地,故此不屬強制檢疫人士,然而該名會員須在僱主家居處所內照顧嬰兒,她與嬰兒,嬰兒與其須要檢疫的父母均無可避免地有貼身接觸。這些照護工作特別令交叉感染風險十分高,外傭亦需要為僱主一家出外買餸,也增加了其他公共場所人士的感染風險。

工會另一位會員的僱主因擔心在其隔離期間,會讓她受到感染,所以僱主打算安排她外宿,但這卻違反了政府外傭強制留宿的規定,故此該名會員十分懊惱。

此外,聯會的本地家務助理會員也有向聯會反映,因疫情關係,大部份本地家務助理損失起碼一半的收入,她們亦有擔心,假若僱主是家居檢疫人士,但僱主沒有告知她們,她們不但面對感染病毒風險,同時亦「被犯法」,因為559E強制檢疫法例規定,任何人士不能進入接受家居隔離人士的處所。

聯會指出家務工作是高風除工作,假若從外地回港的僱主感染病毒,相信外傭差不多無可避免地一同被感染,3月17日在巴西就有一名家務工,相信是被從意大利回來的確診僱主感染病毒而死亡。在香港,其273確診個案之中,就有七名家務工人(包括五位外傭、一位留宿家庭司機及一位外宿家庭司機)在僱主確診後也被確診感染病毒[2],相信他們均是受僱主感染的。

香港亞洲家務工工會聯會秘書 Shiella Estrada(斯娜)指出,《職業安全及健康條例》509章豁免了外傭僱主提供安全及健康的工作場所的責任,僱主往往漠視家務工人的職業安全及健康。再者,很多僱主一直以來並未有給予外傭合適的住宿條件,很多外傭需要與僱主家庭成員同住一間睡房,或與小孩和長者同睡一張床,更有睡在客廳、廚房和廁所的,這些情況過去工會、民間組織及傳媒也一直有報導及向政府施壓修改政策,政府一直無視情況和意見。在冠狀病毒疫情爆發之下,外傭縱然已經努力去確保家居衞生,以及提醒僱主及其家人注意個人衞生,但是與僱主在家居環境與僱主緊密接觸,也有僱主不注意衞生,而且,冦狀病毒並未列入職業病保障範圍,外傭一旦染病,死亡或康復後的保障也令人擔憂。

聯會主席Phobsuk Gasing(阿釘)亦指出,政府自疫情爆發以來,忽略對外傭的關顧及保障,更發新聞稿提議外傭留在家中,令很多僱主藉機剝削外傭放假權利。為了防止疫症,外傭已加強家居清潔,卻有好些僱主不必要的加重清潔工作,又有拒絕向外傭給予手套、拖鞋,令傭工皮膚被漂白水灼傷。

 聯會希望港府及公眾明白,抗疫是一件必須大家齊心合作、互相關懷的事情,港府及公眾實必須公平看待及關顧在港近四十萬的外傭,才能確保整體社會的公共健康。

聯會向政府提出以下要求:

一)    取消強制留宿規定,並清楚訂明如僱主屬檢疫人士,可讓外傭外宿,由僱主或政府提供;

二)    修訂《職業安全及健康條例》,確保外傭僱主有責任保障外傭職業安全及健康;

三)    把冠狀病毒列入法定職業病,家務工應納入保障範圍;

四)    衞生防護中心必須檢查清楚受檢疫人士的家居環境,是否適宜予非檢疫人士同住;

五)     政府及衞生署應教育僱主,必須與其家務工配合及分擔防疫工作;

六)     設立失業保障;

七)     規定僱主必須通知家務工,他們正接受家居隔離的情況。

為了讓家務工和其僱主認識如何齊心合力做好家居防疫,聯會又制作教育影片,讓僱主及家務工人了解及明白家居及個人衞生、共同防疫的須知。

香港亞洲家務工工會聯會
2020年03月22日

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[1]香港政府2020年3月18日新聞公告「勞工處呼籲僱主及職業介紹所為外籍家庭傭工接受家居強制檢疫作出安排」 https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202003/18/P2020031800889.htm

[2] 他們分別是第61,90,103,113,116,118,155個案

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