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Adult supervision requirement dropped from window cleaning ban after employers' protest

14 November 2016

By Daisy CL Mandap
The proper way to clean windows, according to Labour Dept
A requirement for adult supervision while domestic workers are cleaning windows has  been dropped from a provision that will be included in their standard employment contracts from next year.
But the provision will still require windows to be installed with grills that must be locked during the cleaning process, unless they are on the ground floor or can be reached safely from a ledge or balcony.
It will also still provide that no body part of the helper, except for the arm, should be extended outside of the locked grills while cleaning the outside part of windows.
The amended provision was made public by the Labour Department today, Nov. 14, after a series of consultations with concerned parties.
According to Thomas Chan, an employment agency representative whose group recently met with labour officials on the proposed amendment, the requirement for adult supervision was opposed by most employers who reportedly found it untenable.
The employers reportedly insisted that it would be difficult for them to meet this requirement, given that most of them are away at work for nearly the whole day.
Had they gotten their way, the window cleaning ban would not have even received support from the Labour Department.
A militant employers group had earlier tried Hong Kong labour officials to overrule a window cleaning ban unilaterally imposed by Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre, which was supposed to take effect last Oct. 15.
Labatt de la Torre had ordered that all employment contracts to be submitted to his office from that day should have a stamped notification that the helper would not be allowed to clean windows from the outside.
Days before it was to take effect, the employers’ group called on the government to instead stop the practice of allowing the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to vet all contracts for hiring Filipino helpers before they are passed on Immigration.
But the move backfired, when Labor not only sided with POLO’s move but also expanded the safety provision by requiring all windows above ground to be fixed with locked grills, and initially mandating adult supervision throughout the cleaning process.
Labour only asked that the implementation be put off to Jan 1 next year, so it could consult with all stakeholders.
The safety provision will cover all foreign domestic workers, not just those from the Philippines.
On Oct 27 Labour Secretary Matthew Cheung met with the consuls general of countries sending domestic workers to Hong Kong and explained the safey provision to them.
All sides reached consensus to include the safety clause in employment contracts from next year.
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