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Stop midnight termination!

08 October 2017

By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

In quite a number of messages sent to us by distressed Filipina migrant workers, we were told of how their employers had sacked them at or around midnight, and told to leave the house immediately.

This would be considered downright evil by most people, but not in the realm of what the Hong Kong Labour Department deems as actionable wrongs committed by employers.

In plainer terms, contrary to what right-thinking people might believe, it is not illegal for employers to throw foreign domestic workers out of their houses during odd hours, even just on a whim or out of spite.

With no move on the part of the government or the police to stop this deplorable practice, many wicked employers out to inflict further harm on their hapless domestic help have been resorting to it lately.

Consider these recent cases:
• A Filipina suffering from stage 4 cancer was driven out by her employer as soon as the clock ticked at midnight. Pictures of the maid with plasters still stuck on parts of her body from a recent chemotherapy, and with her belongings strewn about, went viral on Facebook. The employer was apparently counting the days when he could legally throw out the maid who was on sick leave until then. Fortunately for this Filipina, said welfare officers at POLO, her employer had miscalculated, and is now facing a case for illegally terminating the worker while on sick leave
• Another Filipina who endured maltreatment for six months on the mistaken notion that she would have to pay the equivalent of her month’s salary if she walked out on her job was nevertheless thrown out at midnight by her employer on a fit. The Filipina decided to sleep in the lobby of the building where her employers lived but the caretaker took pity and called the police. The employer was forced to take her back in but after enduring a few more hours of slave-like conditions the worker chose to leave on her own. A labour officer told her afterwards she could have left earlier without obligation because of the way she was treated
• The most recent case involved another newly-arrived Filipina who was told to leave by her employer, also at midnight, after she questioned her being told to clean windows from the outside even at the height of a storm. Fortunately for her, neighbors who noticed her daily window cleaning came to her rescue and let her spend the night with them. She is now pursuing a labor claim against her laborer, and hoping to be allowed to process a new work contract in Hong Kong, given the employer’s clear violation of the government’s policy against unsafe window cleaning

These are just of the more recent cases of this nature which we could recall offhand for being downright nasty, even cruel. For sure, there are many more, and there would be many others, unless the government moves to outlaw the practice.

If we are to push for more humane treatment for our workers, this, plus other seemingly innocuous acts by the employer like giving fixed-dated return tickets to a terminated worker, making them sleep just about anywhere or in coffin-like boxes, should be part of the deal.

We managed to get the government to take a step in the right direction by banning dangerous window cleaning by domestic workers, we could do it again with these acts that obviously violate every just person’s sense of decency and fair play.

So, while we continue to push for decent pay and better working conditions for our workers, these little acts that could mean a world of difference for them should not be overlooked.

There is simply no place for them in any civilized society.

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