Hundreds of foreign domestic helpers took to the streets on Sunday, seeking increases in their minimum wage and food allowance as the government is about to announce its annual decision on the matter.
Led by the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB), the maids marched from Exchange Square in Central to the headquarters of the Labour Department in Sheung Wan to air their demands, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
A petition submitted to the department, they said the minimum wage should be raised by 28 percent to HK$5,500, from HK$4,310 currently, and the food allowance by 60 percent to HK$2,500.
Also, it should be specified in their contracts that their food, if provided by employers, must be sufficient, nutritious and adequate.
AMCB spokesperson Eman Villanueva said they decided to stage the mass action after media reported that mainland China was considering allowing Filipino domestic helpers to work in five cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen.
A foreigner who is currently working in Shanghai as a domestic helper can earn as much as HK$8,000 a month and spend less on consumer items at the same time, which just goes to show that those working in Hong Kong are receiving less, Villanueva said.
If the mainland opens its market, Hong Kong will lose its appeal to foreign maids, who will then try to move across the border for better pay, even though they may like Hong Kong better, he said.
Villanueva noted that the Hong Kong government had only raised foreign maids’ wages by less than 5 percent a year in the past few years, a pace that is far slower than the inflation rate.
Asked why the AMCB is demanding for an hourly rate of HK$40.2 instead of HK$34.5, which is the minimum legal rate, Villanueva said the latter is not reasonable.
He also said many foreign maids have been complaining that they are not being given enough food by their employers, forcing them to put up with hunger or buy food themselves.
Meanwhile, Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, who chairs the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, said the Labour Department had stated that news about China planning to import Filipino maids was not true.
Yung also stressed that Hong Kong is offering better pay for foreign maids than neighboring places such as Singapore and Taiwan, where wages are around HK$3,000 a month.
Also, Hong Kong offers training to foreigners who are working as domestic helpers for the first time, she said.
She said the current minimum wage of HK$4,310 is reasonable and even has room to be adjusted downward.
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