The Support Group for Hong Kong Employers with Foreign Domestic Helpers launched an online petition on Tuesday calling for a halt on a window cleaning ban to be built into foreign domestic helper contracts by the Philippines Department of Labour and Employment in October.

window cleaning domestic workers
window cleaning domestic workers

“The Philippines Consulate General’s hasty decision on the ‘window cleaning ban’ broke the hearts of hundreds of thousands of employers,” the petition said.

The petition laid out seven demands. One of which asked for the Hong Kong Labour Department to “review the lacklustre policies towards domestic workers that are biased towards the protection of their interests.” It also asked to remove the Philippine Consulate General from the role of approving domestic worker contracts.

Another demanded the Philippines Labour Department “monitor the quality of domestic workers, including the excessive time they spend on their phones, taking loans, theft, framing their employers, engagement in sex work, and poor behaviours alike.”

“They should educate their people on how to become a positive labourer overseas, so they can earn foreign money for their country and their families,” it said.

foreign domestic helper window cleaning ban
“The Philippines Consulate General’s hasty decision on the ‘window cleaning ban incident’ broke the hearts of hundreds of thousands of employers.” Photo: Support Group for HK Employers with FDHs via Facebook.

Eman Villanueva of the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body told HKFP that it is no longer surprising to see such demands made by the support group. “They should think of ways for workers to have enough rest, to have proper pay, to have proper treatment in order to increase productivity,” he said. “Many employers in Hong Kong don’t share the same beliefs as this support group.”

In response to a demand that called upon the Philippines Labour Department to ensure domestic workers receive occupational safety training, Villanueva said “the Hong Kong government has the responsibility to train workers… it is quite embarrassing that the Filipino government has to take on this job.” He added that he has never seen any household occupational safety and health standards in Hong Kong.

Eman Villanueva (centre). Photo: HKFP.

On October 1, Jalilo de la Torre, the Philippines Labour attache, issued a memo to approved domestic worker intermediaries in Hong Kong which said that all contracts beginning October 15 should include a clause that read: “For safety purposes, cleaning the exterior windows is not part of the domestic helper’s duties.”

The Support Group flooded the Chief Executive Office and the Philippines Consulate General in Hong Kong with letters to oppose the ban, and requested that the Philippines government to repeal the clause.

See also: HKFP Lens: Hidden Dreams – Portraits of Hong Kong’s domestic helpers

matthew cheung
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung. File Photo: Stand News.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, will discuss the clause in depth with de la Torre. The Philippines have suspended the window cleaning ban for 30 days beginning October 14.

Pattern of incidents 

In August, a 35-year-old Filipino woman fell to her death in Tseung Kwan O whilst cleaning windows. In January, an Indonesian domestic worker died in Kowloon City after also falling when cleaning windows. In January 2014, a 28-year-old domestic worker died in identical circumstances in Wong Tai Sin.

Stanley is a Media and Communications graduate from Goldsmiths College in London. He takes particular interest in visual journalism, having produced photographic and video work on a number of social and political issues. He has also interned at the current affairs service of RTHK’s TV division.