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Hong Kong: FADWU published a new report showing the current redress mechanisms are failing migrant domestic workers.

Hong Kong: FADWU published a new report showing the current redress mechanisms are failing migrant domestic workers.

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by IDWFED published Dec 15, 2019 12:00 AM
"The Price of Justice" exposes how migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong face a range of administrative and financial obstacles when filing a claim against their employer at the conciliation service, Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board (MECAB) or Labour Tribunal. The most common claims were in relations to their wages, food and travelling allowance, and flight ticket home.

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HONG KONG -

The Hong Kong SAR government must immediately remove barriers that prevent migrant domestic workers having equal access to justice, the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) said, as it published a new report that
documents how the current redress mechanisms are failing migrant domestic workers.

"The Price of Justice" exposes how migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong face a range of administrative and financial obstacles when filing a claim against their employer at the conciliation service, Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board (MECAB) or Labour Tribunal. The most common claims were in relations to their wages, food and travelling allowance, and flight ticket home.

FADWU’s interviews with 25 migrant domestic workers reveal that during the conciliation service, their employers offered on average a mere 51% of the amount claimed by the workers. Similarly, seventeen interviewees who took their case on to the
Labour Tribunal averaged claims of HK$34,300, but the average amount awarded was only HK$13,822 or 40% of their claim.

“The justice system in Hong Kong is failing to deliver for migrant domestic workers who are disadvantaged due to the power imbalance with their employers in the negotiating process. Migrant domestic workers are also unfamiliar with Hong Kong laws, may not speak Cantonese or English, and lack information about the procedures and support in pursuing their claim,” said Phobusk Gasing, Chairperson of FADWU.

The research also shows that migrant domestic workers pursuing a claim are often left without a job and a place to stay. The average time 12 interviewees had to wait between filing their case and having it settled at the MECAB/Labour Tribunal was 58
days. These time and cost pressures explain why many settled their cases despite being dissatisfied with the amount offered.

“Migrant domestic workers are frequently coerced into settling for less than they are entitled to by a system, which makes it financially onerous for them to pursue their claim. Many decide to cut their losses, return home and re-migrate so they can keep
working and provide for their families,” said Gasing.

The report highlighted other significant challenges faced by migrant domestic workers in getting redress. One widespread issue was providing sufficient evidence to prove that they were forced to work on statutory holidays or days off. Research conducted by FADWU in 2018 showed that 85% of migrant domestic workers interviewed were not granted the full 24 hours weekly rest day required by law.

Another challenge was the perceived bias of the system in favour of employers. While officials are supposed to be neutral arbitrators of the dispute, several interviewees said that officials at the conciliation meeting or in the Labour Tribunal did not appear to act impartially and 27 interviewees believed the conciliation process and other redress mechanisms favoured the employer.

“Unless the HKSAR government paves the way for fairer redress mechanisms, which are genuinely accessible to migrant domestic workers, the justice system in Hong Kong will be failing to protect the rights of a large part of our community that contributes significantly to the city’s economy,” said Gasing.

FADWU conducted in-depth interviews with 33 Filipino and Indonesian migrant domestic workers who accessed a Labour Department redress mechanism in 2018 or 2019 to try and resolve work-related problems. Interviews took place between February and July 2019.

Background

The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) is the only registered trade union federation of domestic workers in Hong Kong organising local and migrant domestic workers. It is an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF). Its current affiliates include the Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union (HKDWGU), Thai Migrant Workers Union in Hong Kong (TMWU), Union of Nepalese Domestic Workers in Hong Kong (UNDW), Overseas Domestic Workers Union (ODWU), and Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong (PLU).

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Story Type: News

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