Migrant Workers

 

Have you ever thought about this: you are standing next to a victim of human trafficking?

 

On 1 August, HKCTU was invited to join a press conference, together with human rights lawyer Patricia Ho, organizations which are concerned about migrant domestic helpers’ rights and human trafficking, to inform the public about human trafficking in Hong Kong.

 

Human trafficking, in most cases, is to profit from moving a victim from one place to another, and exploiting him/her through labour. There are many means to exploit the victims, the common ones include: alleged debts, restriction of personal liberty. Quite a number of migrant domestic helpers come to Hong Kong with “debts” and repay them with their labour. Their first six months of income go often directly to the agents to repay “debts”. In some severe cases, the employers refuse to give them holidays and do not pay them wages, which make the migrant domestic helpers become victims of human trafficking.

 

The international community has paid attention to human trafficking in Hong Kong over a longer period. In 2016, Department of State of the USA downgraded Hong Kong to its “Tier 2 Watch List”, together with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others in its Trafficking in Persons Report. According to the Report, the Government of Hong Kong does not provide adequate protection to trafficking victims; and there are evidences indicating that Hong Kong has been a hotspot of human trafficking.

 

In fact, Hong Kong laws do not protect victims of human trafficking if they are not sex workers. In other words, Hong Kong law would not prosecute anyone who is involved in trafficking a woman from Southeast Asia to Hong Kong and forcing her to work, as long as no sex work is involved. Thus, there are numerous migrant domestic helpers who are tricked to come and forced to work in Hong Kong and such  injustice is not being heard. They might be able to complain about “missing wages”, but the core and more serious crime, namely human trafficking, is not being exposed and the offenders walk free.

 

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and its affiliate Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions are advocating the Government of Hong Kong to make better laws to eliminate human trafficking. Please join our online “Hong Kong Against Human Trafficking Petition”.

The Hong Kong Against Human Trafficking Petition

https://goo.gl/Be8qua

Employers and employee working together against unscrupulous agents. Bit “modern-day slavery” now

16

Nov 2016

With the joint effort of HKCTU and FADWU, the Gold Union Employment Agency (GUEA) and Ursula Advanced Employment Center (UAEC) were convicted and fined for over-charging placement fee in June and September this year respectively, and the cases have received wide attention.  We would all agree that foreign domestic workers shouldn’t be exploited by unlawful agencies, but there have been a few prosecutions against these agencies.  It was the union members who kept on investigating and brought the cases to the Labour Department, which eventually ended in closure of two unlawful employment agencies.  Let us look at how they operated and work with your domestic workers against the unlawful employment agencies.

 

Practices of unlawful employment agencies

 

Sundari was taken to a finance agency Ample Cooperation Limited after she accepted a job referred by GUEA.  She was forced to sign loan documents and then asked to authorize the finance agency to transfer the “loan” to the account of GUEA though she did not receive any money in the process.  Sundari was “loaned” HK$13,300, which added up to HK$15,000 with loan interest.  Sundari paid her “debt” with her salary from first month. She did not pay any more but file a complaint with the Labour Department with support from the union.

 

In another incident, 3 Indonesian domestic workers were taken to finance agency Indonesian Overseas Credit Limited after they were referred jobs by the UAEC, and asked to sign loan documents without any explanation.  They also did not receive any money but were told to pay back HK$3,380 every month for 6 months, altogether HK$20,280, which was equivalent to 5-month salary.

 

The UAEC took them to open bank accounts after the first month.  Their ATM card and password were kept by the UAEC and employers were asked to transfer their salary through bank accounts.  The UAEC withdrew the “loan payment” directly from the bank accounts without informing the domestic workers, and only returned HK$800 to each of them.  In other words, if the domestic workers did not file a complaint, they would only receive HK$800 each month for their first six months in Hong Kong.

 

 Employers may unknowingly break the law as misled by employment agencies

  

 The employment agencies forced the domestic workers into “loans” to circumvent the laws, and misled the public and employers to believe that the fee-charging was legal and the loans were “normal”.  In the above cases, the employment agencies colluded with the finance agencies and forced the domestic workers to apply for loans, and charge fees on monthly bases to avoid legal liabilities. The domestic workers’ loans in their early days in Hong Kong were often forced by employment agencies like GUEA and UAEC for unlawful fee-charging.  Most of the loans of the domestic workers were not related to personal financial situations.

To come by these illegal placement fees, the employment agencies misled Hong Kong employers.  For example, employment agencies asked employers to transfer placement fee to the finance agencies directly on monthly basis, and pay the domestic workers the balance of monthly salary.  This arrangement may be an offence of missing salary with penalty higher than the over-charging of employment agency fee, and the employers have to bear the responsibilities.  In the case of GUEA, the employer thought that the whole amount of salary was transferred to the bank accounts of the domestic workers, while in fact the employment agency took it all.  If the domestic workers refused to pay the amount, the employment agency or finance agency would use different tricks against the domestic workers, such as causing nuisance to the domestic workers, making false complaints to the employer, or even asking the employers to dismiss the domestic workers to put pressure on them.

 

Legal protection is weak but employer-employee collaboration could be strong against mal-practice

 

There are over 300,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong and most of them were exploited by the employment agencies.  Their first six months of the 2-year contracts were often not paid, and it is slavery in modern-day.  It is simple to work with your domestic helper against the unlawful employment agencies.  Support them to fight for their justice by letting them take half-day off to file their complaints with the union or Labour Department.  A just and equal Hong Kong starts with you.

 

Tips for the employers

If you pay through bank accounts, make sure the domestic worker has access to her/his own account.

Inquire about the details of placement fees.

Use agencies which state clearly that they would put additional charges on the domestic workers.

Support your domestic worker to report to union when there is a suspected case of mal-practice.  Hotline: 27708668

 

http://news.tvb.com/local/57d535a26db28c4f784b517c/ (in Chinese)

Respect Migrant Workers’ Contributions Fight for Migrant Workers’ Rights

23

Dec 2015

The International Migrants Day (Dec. 18th) this year, also marks the 25th Anniversary of the rectification of the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families” (alas International Migrants Convention).  Thus, we took to the streets to various consulate generals in order to fight for the rights of 300,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.  We urge the government to introduce regulatory measures to prevent excessive agency fee and eliminate all discriminatory policies against foreign domestic workers.

 

 

As most foreign domestic workers are forced to pay a hefty agency fee as much as three to six months of their salary when their first come to Hong Kong, they are forced to work in order to pay off their debts.  Meanwhile, since regulations on these agencies are negligible and the maximum punishment for agency fee overcharge is a mere $50,000 fine, it has no deterrent effect at all.

 

The International Convention on Migrant Workers stipulates equal treatment of migrant workers in all nations, in order to attain equivalent working conditions for all workers, migrant and local alike.  However, foreign domestic workers are subjected to certain degrees of discrimination from various immigration and employment policies such as the “compulsory live-in arrangement’ and the “two-weeks repatriate rule”.  Such policies also reveal that there is a long way for the Hong Kong Government to catch up with the international requirements in foreign domestic workers policies.

 

 

We believe the governments of the domestic workers exporting countries and the Hong Kong government should take responsibilities for the protection the migrant workers’ labour rights, as well as abolishing all discriminatory policies, and fulfill their international obligations to protect all workers in Hong Kong.

 

 

We demand:

1.      Hong Kong government to assume responsibilities to protect foreign domestic workers, and convey the Chinese government to sign the International Labour Convention Article 189: Convention on domestic workers;

 

2. Hong Kong Government to address the situation of foreign domestic workers, and the implementation of measures to protect foreign domestic workers, including:

(i) Abolish the “compulsory live-in arrangement’ and the “two-weeks repatriate rule”;

(ii) Pass legislation to strengthen investigation, prosecution, and regulations of agencies;

(iii) Stop discrimination against migrant workers in labor policies, to include foreign domestic workers into the minimum wage coverage, and future legislation on standard working hours should consider the situation of foreign domestic workers;

 

3. Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung should meet with relevant NGOs and unions as soon as possible to discuss how to improve the working conditions foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

 

RIGHTS OF MIGRANT DOMESTIC WORKERS IN HONG KONG

28

Feb 2015

Though working abroad may help to secure the income for you and your family, being on your own in a foreign country can be challenging. You may not know anybody, do not understand the rules, the culture, or to whom shall you speak if you experience di culties or problems in the new country. You probably do not know what you should and should not do, or the rights you are entitled to. It is, therefore, very important that you make yourself aware of the information on how to protect yourself.

The information provided here is meant to help you to understand your rights better. It attempts to cover the common scenarios that you will likely encounter during your stay and employment in Hong Kong. If you have any speci c question which is not covered on this website, do not hesitate to contact our hotline on +852 9565 7440,27708668, whatsapp +852 9565 7440, or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

LINK here to the: RIGHTS OF MIGRANT DOMESTIC WORKERS IN HONG KONG