Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) spokesperson Dolores Balladares told GMANews.TV in a phone interview that Hong Kong’s Legislative Council shot down an amendment to the proposed Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) that would have included foreign domestic workers.
“Slavery, marginalization and discrimination has now been put into law in HK. There is neither justice nor democracy in the Legislative Council’s vote against the inclusion of foreign domestic workers in the statutory minimum wage," she said.
Balladares said what could have been a landmark law in Hong Kong, one of China’s two special administrative regions, was scarred by the exclusion of live-in domestic workers, almost all of whom are foreign workers numbering more than 240,000.
The decision came a day after the Legislative Council resumed debate on the region’s first ever minimum wage law, expected to be passed within the week.
On one side of the debate are labor rights groups pushing for the minimum wage to be pegged at HK$33 (about US$4.25 or P196), while on the other are businesses and other employers who do not want it to go beyond HK$24 (US$3 or P143).
Some half a million workers in Hong Kong, including low-skilled workers from the catering, retail and cleaning industries, earn less than $4 an hour, according to a CNN report.
While the council has yet to decide on the exact amount of minimum wage, for which labor groups have been struggling for over a decade now, it has decisively voted down the proposal to include domestic workers.
According to Balladares, a Filipina who has been working in Hong Kong for 16 years now, the exclusion meant that wages for domestic workers will continue to be determined by the Minimum Allowable Wage policy, which she described as “unjust, not transparent and arbitrary."
“The minimum wage for domestic workers is annually reviewed by the government if it should be frozen, increased or cut. The problem, however, is that the review has never been transparent and we are not informed of its basis," she explained.
Currently, domestic workers receive a monthly salary of HK$3,860 (P22,900), or a little more than half of the cost of living in the highly cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong, which is about $7,000 to $8,000, according to Balladares.
Balladares said migrants’ groups are thus planning to file a judicial review against the exclusion, as well as send petitions to international organizations to expose the “discrimination against and slave-like treatment" of domestic workers.
“This decision should be exposed as an international shame. Slavery and discrimination is alive in Hong Kong and, worse, has become institutionalized," she added.
Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show that as of 2009, there are a little over 100,000 Filipino workers in Hong Kong, about a quarter of whom are employed as household service workers.—JV, GMANews.TV
Reposted From GMA News.TV