A coalition of 71 unions have petitioned against a legislative proposal to crack down on foreign domestic workers who seek to change employers before the end of their contracts.
Around 20 union members also rallied outside the Legislative Council on Friday urging for some lawmakers supporting the motion to stop “racist attacks” and apologise to the community.
The protest was staged after lawmaker Frankie Ngan, a member of pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), called on the government to step up regulations on foreign domestic worker agencies and crack down on “job-hopping” in his motion raised last Wednesday.
The lawmaker asked authorities to limit how much money a foreign domestic worker can borrow per year, establish a rating system for employment agencies, and ensure compulsory letters of agreement upon payment of salary. They also called for a cut in the number of days a migrant domestic worker can stay in Hong Kong between jobs from 14 days to one week.
During last week’s legislative meeting, another lawmaker – Elizabeth Quat – said some foreign domestic workers did not match their “product descriptions,” as they were not capable of delivering what they said they could do.
In the petition letter, the unions urged the two legislators to “urgently stop their racist attacks and maliciously accusing migrant domestic workers as [being a] job-hopper.”
The letter stated that foreign domestic workers were “not products nor commodities that are consumable and easily disposable,” adding that mindsets, such as Quat’s, were “highly condemnable and unacceptable” in Hong Kong.
The unions also called “job-hopping” a “make-believe” story, as migrant domestic workers only have 14 days to find a new job if they terminate their contracts immediately and have to “pay a huge amount of money to the employment agency.”
They said no right-minded migrant worker would leave their jobs prematurely “if she/he is treated humanely and justly.”
The petition letter demanded a public apology from Ngan and Quat for their “disrespect towards migrant workers.”
Speaking to HKFP after the rally, Shiela Tebia, the vice chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said the two-week window was “already an oppressive policy” and halving it would be “insane.”
Tebia said that foreign domestic workers have been accused of quitting their jobs early for the one-month severance pay and a free air ticket back to their home country.
However, the union leader said no one would actually do such a thing for the free perks, as they would have to spend two or three months in their home country jobless without an income and then pay fees to another employment agency.
“For the sake of the argument, if we want to change employment… what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong to job-hop? Just because we are migrant domestic workers and they thought that we don’t have a right to change, or to be in a better working condition?” Tebia added.
‘I did receive that many complaints’
When HKFP asked for comment, lawmaker Quat said “the first thing I want to say is that everything I said in the Legislative Council is factual. I did receive many complaints.”
Quat also questioned why HKFP “picked on” lawmakers from the DAB when other legislators also spoke on the issue last Wednesday.
HKFP has also reached to Frankie Ngan for comment.
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