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.