What is WRONG with how Hong Kong cares for its guest overseas domestic helpers? What more can we do?
Let’s start with the good news. A crowdfunding campaign to finance medical treatment for a domestic worker who was fired for having cancer has now raised over HK$ 700,000 – nearly double it’s original target. Thanks to the generosity of the Hong Kong people and her unsung hero, an American lawyer living here who has championed her cause and provided her with accommodation.
Baby Jane Allas made front page news when she was fired after being diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer. The 35-year-old mother of five was left without healthcare following her dismissal in January as her insurance was terminated because of her dismissal.
Unfortunately, most of the abuses that happen do not have a ‘white knight’ to rescue them. Cases like this surface regularly and are only the tip of the iceberg – many cases of abuse go unreported or dealt with badly when they are reported. It doesn’t have to be like this.
Here is a THREE point plan to help to prevent or minimize these problems
1. End the 14 day stay limit for end of contract or dismissed workers. Give
end-of-contract workers and finished workers 6 weeks to leave Hong Kong
instead of the statutory 14 days. The Government knows they cannot find a job in that time and will have to go home.
2. End the rule that the helper must live in with the employing family. There
are many instances where this is inconvenient to the Employer as well as the
employee. Because of this, ‘Living out’ goes on all the time, but if the girl is
caught, she is sent home.
3. Inspection and enforcement of the existing law. Many employers keep their helper’s passports, make them sleep in a kitchen or toilet and do not give them a full day off. No-one checks, and these abuses go unrecognized and unpunished.
There is much more that can be done, but this would be a start. The international
human rights community has long criticized the Hong Kong Government for not helping, but rather making it extremely difficult for these workers to obtain fair treatment.
Helpers put up with abuse, bad treatment and long hours because they cannot afford to be sacked. Their families back home are relying on them for support, education, and
medical bills, so they are frightened to complain to anyone, because they will almost certainly lose their jobs. It is all too easy for the employer to sack them without reason.
Many caring Hong Kongers and foreigners living here realise this situation is not right.
Let’s make as much fuss and noise as we can until someone in the Government takes their moral responsibility seriously.
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Meet the author
Arthur Crandon is a lawyer, the boring office kind, not the exciting (and much better paid) courtroom type. He worked as a solicitor for a while before embarking on an interesting life overseas. He has spent most of his time in recent years in South East Asia, more recently in Hong Kong. Before that, Arthur lived and worked in the Philippine Islands.
He loves to fish, and play the piano – but spends most of his time writing, eating, drinking and sleeping
– usually, but not always, in that order.
His first book, Deadly Election, draws on his strange imagination and his
experiences, together with those of others, in a land that, beneath a veneer of civilisation, operates like the Wild West and is very
dangerous to innocent and gullible foreigners.
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