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DH accused of theft comes back with claim against employer

23 April 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The Labour Tribunal has postponed hearing a wage dispute between a Filipina domestic worker and her employer while police investigates a theft case filed by the latter against the helper.

But the presiding officer asked the worker, Marieta Baggay, and her employer, Patricia Cheung, to settle their issues over pay and return air ticket.

Baggay filed a claim for wages in lieu of one month’s notice after Cheung accused her of theft and terminated their contract in early March.

The Filipina, a client of Bethune House, told The SUN she had worked for Cheung only for more than two months when she was arrested for allegedly stealing the employer’s Philip Stein watch worth $8,600.

Investigation is still under way and the Mission for Migrant Workers is helping Baggay both in the labor dispute and the police case.

The Filipina said this was her first time to work in Hong Kong, following six years in Dubai also as a domestic helper for an Arab family.

“I didn’t expect this will happen to me in Hong Kong. I got better treatment in Dubai,” Baggay told The SUN.

She said that the employer had treated her badly from the start, especially whenever Cheung had a spat with her husband.

On the day she was fired, Baggay said Cheung first asked her to take some rubbish to the refuse collection point downstairs. When she returned to the flat, she said she was surprised when a police officer opened the door to her and asked her to proceed to the room she shared with the employer’s two young children.

The helper said she saw the officer and her employer talking in the master bedroom before they came to her and showed her the watch which Cheung allegedly found in the drawer where Baggay kept her belongings.

She was arrested and taken by the officer to the Shatin police station. At the same time, she was fired by her employer. Baggay was released after initial investigation.

The Filipina sought to get one month’s pay in lieu of notice from the employer, but Cheung countered with a similar claim.

In the Tribunal, Cheung insisted that she would not pay anything to Baggay. But
presiding officer W Y Ho reminded her that she was legally bound to at least pay for the maid’s return air ticket, a $100 food and travel allowance, and arrears in wages.

“If you don’t pay now, the interest will keep accumulating. I suggest that you deal with all items that you are contractually obligated to pay,” Ho said.

After Cheung agreed to pay Baggay's salary, Ho proceeded to another contentious issue, the air ticket. The employer insisted that she book and buy the ticket for the maid, while the maid wanted it in cash.

When the presiding officer said Cheung had to pay cash and let the maid choose which airline to take, the employer said she would pay Baggay only $1,300. The Filipina said a travel agency quoted a $2,900 fare to her hometown of Tuguegarao, Cagayan, but she did not bring the quotation to court. Eventually, she settled for $1,300.

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