The government should include in the standard contract for foreign domestic workers the number of hours they should work each day, a labor leader said.
Grace “Shiella” Estrada, chair of the Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong, said there are plans to file in the Legislative Council (LegCo) a proposal which would require that the contracts of Hong Kong workers should also specify their working hours.
“We were told that the moves to have standardized working hours (in Hong Kong) will not be tabled this year. Instead, they will propose that all of those who have a standard contract—whether local or migrant—should have specific working hours in their contracts,” Estrada said in an interview on Labor Day.
“That’s not being done now so that is what they want to change. They will put the number of working hours in the contract and have these implemented by the employers,” she added.
Estrada said the proposal of specifying working hours in contracts had a better chance of passing in the LegCo, compared to legislating standardized working hours for everyone, because not all workers in Hong Kong have contracts.
“That is why we are still pushing for the international standard of eight working hours because what would happen to domestic workers who are locals? Most of them don’t have contracts,” she said.
“Migrants (or foreign domestic workers) would benefit but what about our local sisters who have no contracts? Some have but it’s only for two or three months” she added.
Estrada said the issue had been discussed with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the pro-democracy labor group in the city.
“We were told that the LegCo officials are not yet keen on the proposal to have standardized working hours because they still need more information before that can be adopted for everyone,” she said.
“The alternative is to include in the contract of workers, especially foreign domestic workers, the number of working hours. Kung hindi working hours na standard sa lahat, sa kontrata dapat meron,” she added.
Estrada said there was a possibility that the LegCo would pass such a proposal, which would also “include migrants”.
“May possibility na ipasa ng Legco yung working hours sa kontrata including migrants. Kasama dapat migrants kasi baka mamya i-exclude na naman nila,” she said.
Estrada said the workers who marched on the streets on Labor Day also wanted stiffer penalties for employment agencies that violate labor rules, particularly those who collect excessive placement fees.
“Tougher dapat yung penalties sa mga nagvaviolate. Ngayon kasi yung penalty very light. Minsan stop lang ng processing,” she said.
“Wala kaming nakita na naimprison o na malaki man lang yung fine na binyaran like $150,000. Wala tayong nakita na ganun,” she added.
Estrada also said that foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong should also have a pension plan.