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Catalla hopes COP will better protect workers

19 March 2017

ConGen Bernie Catalla (second from right), holds up a plaque of appreciation given her on March 12 by organizers of the event. Others in photo are, from left, Justin Murgai, Christian Action humanitarian services manager; Lee Cheuk-yan, HKCTU general secretary; Legco member Emily Lau; Indonesian ConGen Tri Tharyat; and Nurul Qoiriah, head of IOM Sub-office in Hong Kong.


By Vir B. Lumicao

Consul General Bernardita Catalla has expressed hope that the Code of Practice for Employment Agencies, or COP, would be enforced effectively to protect migrant workers in Hong Kong.
Catalla also praised the Technical Working Group set up by the Consulate with the Labour and Immigration Departments as an effective platform to raise issues for the protection of women workers.

“We look forward to the Code’s effective enforcement to ensure the protection of all migrant workers in Hong Kong,” Catalla said in a speech at an International Women’s Day celebration at Christian Action in Kowloon Bay.

The event was organized jointly by the International Office for Migration (IOM), an agency of the United Nations, and Christian Action.

Catalla said the Consulate raises Filipino workers’ concerns on an individual basis with the Hong Kong government during quarterly meetings with the TWG.

“And we provide inputs in the shaping of policy and regulations to ensure women’s safety, protection and security,” she said.

Catalla said the Consulate first proposed to the TWG a safety clause on window cleaning in domestic helpers’ contracts that led to negotiations between the consulates general of labor-sending countries and the Hong Kong government.

“The result of the negotiations was the inclusion in the new standard contract of a safety clause that will guide workers on when they can clean the external side of the windows,” Catalla the said, crediting the consulates’ “close coordination and effective cooperation” for the speedy negotiations.
Catalla said the Consulate is guided by the Magna Carta for Women, which mandates all foreign service posts to implement capacity-building projects and activities for women, including most of the 190,000 overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

“In implementing the Magna Carta for Women, one of our priority concerns is to ensure the rights and well-being of our Filipino workers in Hong Kong are promoted and protected,” Catalla said.
The event, held at the New Horizons Building where Christian Action has its headquarters and service center, was attended by about 400 migrant women workers of various nationalities but predominantly Indonesians.

Justin Murgai, manager of humanitarian services at Christian Action, said in his welcome remarks that the event was held “to celebrate (the migrant women workers’) courage and achievements, and to continue raising awareness of the issues surrounding the community, especially those related to exploitation, abuse, and poor living conditions.”

Nurul Qoiriah, head of the IOM Sub-Office in Hong Kong, said the event was a tribute to women who were “the primary breadwinners for their families back home and have made the agonizing choice to leave their children and families behind to earn a living abroad.”

Lau, the first female directly elected to Legislative Council, thanked the foreign domestic workers for their “valuable contribution” to Hong Kong.

“I wish to create a win-win situation for foreign domestic workers and their employers, where the workers’ rights are respected and the employers treat their workers well and can get the service of trained and responsible workers,” she said.

Activities and takeaway for guests at the event included free entry to the finale of the month-long Migrant Workers Got Talent contest, Women at Work photography competition, as well as cultural performances, food stalls, and game booths by migrant groups that showcased the cultural diversity of the domestic workers in Hong Kong.

The event was also attended by the Indonesian Consul General Tri Tharyat; Sonny W. Manalu, director of Social Rehabilitation and Victims of Trafficking Protection, Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs; Emily Lau, former chair of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, and Lee Cheuk-Yan, general secretary of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

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