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DH strikes back at employer, agency after China ordeal

18 January 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina domestic worker filed a case on Jan 11 at the Labour Tribunal to claim payment in lieu of notice and other compensation from her former employer she had accused earlier of trafficking her to China.

The Tribunal had calendared the hearing for Feb 8, said Consulate officer Danny Baldon, who is handling the case of Chona (not her real name), the alleged victim.

Baldon said Chona elevated the case to the Tribunal after the employer, Cheung Lailing, snubbed a scheduled meeting at the Labour Relations Office on Jan 5.

He said Cheung’s lawyer sent a letter stating that the employer had no accountability in relation to the Filipina’s case.

Last month, the woman filed complaints of breach of contract and human trafficking against the employer for allegedly taking her across the border to work for her in China.

Chona lodged a separate complaint with the Employment Agencies Administration against Blessings Forever Employment Agency for allegedly charging her $16,000 as placement fee, of which she had advanced $10,000.

The Hong Kong government prohibits placement fees and allows agencies to charge just 10% of a helper’s first monthly salary as commission.

It was learned that Blessings was not accredited by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.

Chona alleged that the contracts with her first and second employers were only stamped by two accredited local agencies so they could be processed by POLO.

The maid filed the human trafficking complaint with the Immigration Department on Dec 7 and went to the EAA a week later to complain against Blessings charging her an excessive placement fee.

Both cases were being investigated by the two agencies, said Baldon.

Chona, a nursing board passer, told The SUN in a recent interview that she met Cheung at Blessings shortly after her first would-be boss backed out two days after hiring allegedly because she did not see the helper on CCTV.

Cheung was purportedly an executive of Shenzhen Expressway Petroleum Co. Ltd.

Blessings, owned by Alice Tang Shuk-wai, successfully placed Chona with Cheung, who interviewed her on July 2 before she returned to Manila. Blessings had her contract stamped by Kingdom & Power Employment Services, or KNP.

Cheung allegedly told her during the job interview she would work in her Mid-Levels flat doing such duties as cleaning the house, making juice, and other easy chores.

“Ang sabi niya, palagi raw siyang out of town kaya wala raw akong gagawin kundi maglinis ng bahay. Maganda naman ang offer, kaya tinanggap ko,”Chona said.

But as soon as Tang delivered her to Cheung’s house on Oct 24, the employer ordered Chona to start working, first by giving her a body massage then making her a juice and cleaning up the house. That night, she slept at 3am.

“Noong nandito na ako sa Hong Kong, bigla na siyang nagbago. Sinabi na rin niya dadalhin daw niya ako sa China at doon ako magtatrabaho,” the maid said.

Cheung asked her driver to apply for a China visa for Chona on Oct 26, but it was denied. The employer had to return to Hong Kong from Shenzhen to get the maid a visa.

In Shenzhen, she allegedly worked from 8am to 10am in Cheung’s house and was taken to the boss’ office at 11am where she cleaned up the place and did other chores until 9pm. For all her labor, she was allegedly given leftovers for meals.

Cheung was said to be fussy about the maid’s performance. On Nov 11, she allegedly punched the helper’s left arm for not straining her soup properly.

“Wala akong magawa, wala naman akong matawagan. Tapos inambahan niya uli ako ng suntok,” Chona said.

On Nov 14, Cheung allegedly ordered Chona to work nonstop all day without food until her body trembled from hunger and fatigue. The next day, the boss told her: “Pack up your things, everything, even not dry” and told the driver to take her to the bus station.

Back in Hong Kong Chona stayed in her mother’s flat after informing her agent, Tang, about her termination. Tang asked Cheung why but the boss said she sent the maid back to Hong Kong to rest as she was sick, and that everything would be settled on Nov 20.

That meeting at Pacific Place between Chona and her mother and Cheung on Nov 20 was not about settlement, the maid said. Cheung gave her instead a one-month termination notice effective Dec 16 with her release on Nov 30 “because I don’t want her to stay in my flat alone”.

The employer took Chona back to her flat then left for China the next morning. On Nov 27, Cheung ordered Chona to return to Shenzhen but the Filipina refused. The employer returned to Hong Kong and said the maid won’t leave the house on Nov 30 unless she paid $2,940 for the remaining days to Dec 16.

Cheung and Tang allegedly forced Chona to sign a quitclaim saying she was leaving on an emergency and won’t file any complaint against the boss. Tang booked her on a Dec 1 flight to Manila without baggage allowance but charged her $1,800 for it.

Sensing she was being shipped out soon so she could not complain to the authorities, Chona paid $500 to rebook her ticket then sought help from the Consulate.

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