FIRST TOP LEVEL MEET | DOLE Chief, HK Counterpart Discuss Excessive Fees Collected from OFWs

2015-0811 DOLE Chief, HK Counterpart Discuss Excessive Fees Collected from OFWs

Hong Kong foreign maids protest the torture of an Indonesian maid, 16 January 2014. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA – Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and her Hong Kong counterpart have met for the first time at their level to discuss, among others, the excessive fees collected from overseas Filipino workers in Asia’s financial hub.

In a two-day offiical visit over the weekend, Baldoz met with Hong Kong Secretary of Labor and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and told him about so-called training fees that are so high they put OFWs in “debt bondage that defeats their purpose of working abroad.”

Hong Kong hosts about 180,000 OFWs, mostly women who work as stay-in maids and are therefore vulnerable to all types of abuses. These OFWs represent 53 percent of all the household service workers in Hong Kong.

The Philippine labor chief also explained the country’s no placement fee policy for Filipino overseas household service workers, as well as the 2006 Household Service Workers’ Reform Package, which among others set $400 as the minimum monthly salary for Filipino domestic workers abroad.

The reform package, Baldoz told Cheung, is now under review for update “to conform to the realities of the times.”

The no placement fee policy is circumvented in Hong Kong, as Hong Kong recruiters charge training fees instead.

“I also raised the concern over the salaries and living conditions of our household service workers in Hong Kong, as well as the need of our OFWs for stronger protection from various abuses by some employers. I also expressed concern on Hong Kong’s two-week rule and hoped it can be reviewed and extended,” she said in a statement released after the meeting with Cheung.

The two-week rule is for foreign workers who are fired or have quit. Two weeks is the amount of time given them so they can find a new contract. Foreign workers find the rule unfair, discriminatory, and prevent them from escaping abusive situations.


HK response

According to Baldoz, her counterpart “acknowledged the immense contribution of OFWs to Hong Kong in elderly and child care and in releasing/allowing Hong Kong women to join the labor market.”

For his part, Cheung told Baldoz of Hong Kong’s labor protection and support services available to foreign household service workers, noting that the former British colony has a comprehensive wage, health, and social benefits coverage for these workers.

“He also acknowledged that excessive collection of fees and charges is a mutual concern. He also emphasized that Hong Kong does not tolerate any abuse of foreign workers and said the Hong Kong government is very serious about violations of its laws, rules, and regulations, particularly against women,” Baldoz said.

The two discussed possible ways to address the aforementioned concerns and agreed that both sides should work together in strengthening mechanisms that will solve the problems.

“We have agreed to exchange information and intelligence on specific cases and step up collaborative efforts to raise awareness and knowledge of workers, stakeholders, and the public on the migration realities and processes,” Baldoz said.

“Both sides committed to provide each other a schedule of allowable fees and charges that will be disseminated to the workers and the public to minimize, if not prevent, abuses. We also agreed to work together to encourage victims to come forward and avail of existing remedies on complaints,” she added.

The Hong Kong top labor official also proposed to convene and host a high-level meeting between labor officials of Hong Kong and the Philippines in the first quarter of next year “to build on the progress of collaborative and coordinative efforts and to further discuss matters of concerning household service workers.”


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