Date
22 January 2017
The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong issued the notice (inset) to employment agencies in reaction to reports of domestic helpers falling to their death while cleaning high-rise windows. Photos: YouTube, HKEJ
The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong issued the notice (inset) to employment agencies in reaction to reports of domestic helpers falling to their death while cleaning high-rise windows. Photos: YouTube, HKEJ

Filipino maids to be barred from cleaning high-rise windows

The Philippines has banned its nationals employed as domestic helpers in Hong Kong from cleaning the exterior of windows in high-rise buildings.

In a notice sent to employment agencies in the territory on Oct. 1, the Philippine Consulate General demanded that a new clause be included in all employment contracts signed by Filipino domestic helpers from Oct. 15 stating that “for safety purposes, cleaning the exterior of windows is not part of the domestic helper’s duties”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The order came after several domestic helpers fell to their death while performing the job, with the latest case involving a 35-year-old Filipino maid working in Tseung Kwan O in August.

Hundreds of foreign domestic helpers took to the streets in early September to ask the Hong Kong government to impose a ban on dangerous jobs such as cleaning high-rise windows.

While well-intentioned, the unilateral move taken by the Philippine government to address the issue might pose some legal complications.

Responding to enquiries from the HKEJ, the Labour Department said any service contract must be agreed upon by both the employer and the domestic helper.

The department said it is following up on the issue with the Philippine consulate general.

Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Center, said the Philippines’ move could set a precedent and spur other countries exporting domestic service to Hong Kong, like Indonesia, to follow suit.

A campaign has been launched on a Facebook account called “Task Force on Foreign Helpers’ Problems”, asking Hong Kong employers of domestic helpers to send letters to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to express their disapproval of the Philippines’ move.

Some 3,000 people have signed the petition.

The convenor of the task force said the move has given rise to rumors among Filipino maids that they could now file complaints against employers who will continue to force them to clean the exterior of high-rise windows, and this could result in a ban on the hiring of Filipino maids in the future.

Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, who chairs the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, urged the Labour Department to step in to ease their concerns.

There are about 187,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

However, their number is declining as the Philippine economy continues to improve and create more jobs.

Filipina plunges to death while cleaning window (Aug. 10, 2016)

Foreign maids seek higher pay, ban on high-rise window cleaning (Sept. 5, 2016)

[Chinese version 中文版]

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