Ursula Advanced Employment Centre, which was handed a fine of HK$30,000 by a district court for overcharging three Indonesian domestic helpers earlier this month, is accused of being involved in another similar case.
An employer of an Indonesian domestic helper recruited by Ursula, surnamed Yau, said he recently received a text message from the agency asking him to deposit HK$3,378, or 80 percent of the statutory HK$4,210 monthly salary, to a bank account owned by his helper every month, Apple Daily reports.
However, Yau learned from his helper that her ATM card and password were being retained by the agency.
According to hk01.com, Yau’s helper was only paid about HK$800 a month during the first six months, with the bulk of her salaries being taken by Ursula.
Under existing regulations, employment agencies could only charge helpers a one-time fee not exceeding 10 percent of their statutory monthly salary.
Yau said he would help his maid open a new bank account where her salary would be sent, in order to prevent the agency from getting her money.
Tang Kin-wah, of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), said they have received a total of 67 complaints on employment agencies overcharging maids since November 2015, with three involving Ursula.
At a press conference held by HKCTU on Sunday, domestic helper Herra said she was once taken by Ursula staff to the Indonesian Overseas Credit Limited to draw out a loan of over HK$20,000.
She did not get the loan, but the agency told her to repay the sum in six instalments.
Tang said some agencies mislead employers into firing helpers who failed to repay the loans.
“This is their way of piling pressure on helpers in order to get them to continue repaying the loans,” Tang explained.
Tang went on to reveal that agencies such as Ursula are merely brokers and operate without a license from the Indonesian Consulate General.
These “brokers” would need to borrow the chop of licensed agencies, for a fee, in order to complete the hiring procedures of domestic helpers for their own customers.
Tang said from what they understand Ursula has been relying on a licensed agency called Sumber Makmur Trading Company for its domestic helper business.
HKCTU suspects that the exploitation of domestic helpers from Indonesia is an organized operation involving a large number of licensed agencies and brokers.
Tang reminded employers of domestic helpers to stay vigilant once they find out that their helpers do not hold their ATM cards or could not manage their bank accounts, or even have their passports taken by their agencies.
“Taking someone’s passport is an offense,” Tang warned.
The Labour Department said it has successfully prosecuted six employment agencies for overcharging or operating without a license this year, and will continue to tackle such illegal practices in the future.
Recruiter fined HK$30,000 for overcharging 3 Indonesian maids (Sept. 2, 2016)
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