Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Repost From GMA News.TV

HK excludes domestics from minimum wage law

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Repost From GMA News.TV

Pinoy workers in Qatar stop work in protest vs violations

At least seven Filipino workers in Qatar, all women, have stopped working and are now seeking repatriation, after complaining of labor violations by the company that hired them. The workers stopped working on Monday, after accusing their Qatari employer of contract substitution, according to Danilo Flores, welfare officer of the overseas workers' welfare administration (OWWA) in Qatar.

The workers were supposed to be employed as waitresses based on the contract they signed in the Philippines, Flores told GMANews.TV over the phone. But their company Prestige Hospitality Services Inc. deployed them as instead as stewards, babysitters and janitors.

They were also supposed to receive a salary of $400 (about P18,500), but they received only 750 Qatari riyals (P9,500). This is apart from the food allowance and overtime pay they were also supposed to get but were never given to them.

“We’ve already talked to the employer, but he told us that he can only give as much as 750 riyals or else he’ll lose his business. He said the recruitment agency was aware of that," Flores said. He added that the workers are actually receiving 850 riyals, according to the employer, but a monthly deduction of 100 riyals is taken from their salary to pay for their airfare to Qatar.

Prestige Hospitality supplies manpower to companies and employs at least 80 Filipino workers, Flores said. The employer is willing to provide the workers’ exit visas for their repatriation, but Flores said only two were deployed by a recruitment agency, Jovineria International Manpower Services, which is supposed to shoulder their airfare. Majority of the company’s Filipino employees are irregular workers, or those who came to Qatar only with a tourist visa and secured their jobs through agents. A Filipino worker based in Qatar sent an e-mail to GMANews.TV detailing the workers’ plight, saying some of them were sexually harassed and one was even raped by the employer. Flores, however, said they have already talked to the alleged rape victim, who denied the report. “So far, none of the workers complained they were sexually harassed," he added. The two workers deployed by a recruitment agency already have tickets but are yet to be scheduled for their flight back to the Philippines. The irregular workers, however, will have to await the release of funds for airfare, which the Philippine Embassy in Qatar has already requested from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“The employer was unable to promise that he’ll be able to give the salary that the workers are supposed to receive, but there will be another discussion between him and our labor attaché," Flores explained. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has suspended processing deployment papers from Jovineria, as well as the employment of Filipino workers by Prestige Hospitality. Based on records from the POEA, Qatar ranks fourth among the top destinations of overseas Filipino workers, with 89,290 Filipino workers as of 2009.—JV, GMANews.TV

Reposted From GMA News.TV

A Repost AFP

20 dead after Typhoon Conson smashes Philippines

People shield themselves from the rain in Manila on July 13, 2010. Typhoon Conson has ripped through the main Philippine island of Luzon leaving a trail of wreckage in the capital and sweeping shanty towns into the sea, officials and witnesses said Wednesday.
Slideshow: Faces of Asia PH

MANILA (AFP) - – At least 20 people were confirmed dead on Wednesday after Typhoon Conson ripped across the Philippines, sweeping shanties into the sea and bringing the nation's capital to a standstill.

Conson hit the Southeast Asian archipelago late on Tuesday before pummelling the densely populated main island of Luzon throughout the night with maximum gusts of 120 kilometres (74 miles) an hour.

"The wind howled like a child screaming," said Rigor Sambol, 52, a father of six who lives in a coastal shanty town on the outskirts of Manila that was partly destroyed.

"It was so strong, our houseboat nearly got flipped over. I had to take the children one by one to a nearby gym where they spent the evening on the cold floor."

Some of the flimsy slum homes erected by squatters along the coast were swept away entirely, leaving the shocked residents to scavenge scrap wood to build makeshift shelters, according to an AFP reporter there.

Authorities said 20 people had been confirmed killed, including two squatters from a vast lakeside shanty town near Manila who were crushed when their homes collapsed.

Eleven fishermen were also missing, while three other people were unaccounted for south of the capital after flooding swept away their shanties, according to the military.

With communication systems down amid the chaos of the typhoon's aftermath, disaster relief officials said they were still trying to determine the extent of the damage and there were concerns the death toll could rise.

Electricity was knocked out throughout Luzon, including Manila, where fallen tree branches and other debris littered the streets on Wednesday.

Power company Meralco said more than 90 percent of Manila's 12 million residents remained without power on Wednesday afternoon.

The national energy transmission company warned that power supplies may not be restored in some areas of Manila and neighbouring regions for up to four days.

The capital's overhead railway system was also shut down due to the power outage, while the government closed down primary and high schools.

For workers in office towers that were relying on back-up generators, it was still difficult to make telephone calls on both landline and mobile networks, while Internet services were also interrupted.

Conson blew past Luzon and into the South China Sea on Wednesday morning, but aviation services remained backlogged in the afternoon as airport authorities scrambled to make up for earlier cancellations.

The Philippines is in the so-called typhoon belt of the Pacific. Up to 20 typhoons sweep through the country each year, killing hundreds of people.

Conson was the first of the season, and its ferocity took many people in Manila by surprise after the state weather service said the typhoon would only strike provinces to the north of the capital.

President Benigno Aquino let rip at the state weather service for not warning Manila's residents that Conson would hit the city.

"This is not acceptable," Aquino told red-faced weather service officials at an emergency meeting of rescue agencies.

"We rely on you to tell us where the potential problems are.

"All the agencies have adequately met their responsibilities at this point in time but your information is sorely lacking. We have had this problem for quite a long time."

The ill-equipped Philippine weather service came in for criticism in September last year when it failed to warn the residents of Manila about the threat from Tropical Storm Ketsana, which killed 464 people.

Reposted From AFP