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Filipina helpless as ex-employer keeps her passports

04 July 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

Charibel Caban gave up more than half of her over $8,000 claim against her former employer at the Labour Tribunal on Jun 20, as she has found an employer who is willing to hire her.

But the settlement agreement the domestic worker had reached with her former employer Lee Wai has not ended her torment, as the mainland woman does not want to give back the Filipina’s old and current passports.

“The tribunal has no jurisdiction over police matters,” Presiding Officer Daniel Tang told the claimant when she brought up the issue about the passports after the settlement.        “What you should do is go to the police and make a report because in Hong Kong it is against the law to keep the personal documents of another person,” he said.

Caban had gone to the Tribunal to claim $8,250 from Lee for one month’s wage in lieu of notice, payment for seven days of annual leave, arrears in wages for seven days, air ticket and $100 travel and food allowance. 

In a counterclaim, Lee also sought payment of wage in lieu of notice from Caban, saying the helper left her flat in Taiwai, Shatin, on her own after an argument on Mar 29. The employer would not budge on the wage in lieu item.

Sensing that the two parties were not ready to settle, the presiding officer warned the case would go to trial and both sides would have to wait another three months if they did not settle on that day. 

The prospect of a prolonged litigation drove Caban to drop her wages in lieu claim, while Lee withdrew her counterclaim. The maid settled for a total of $3,940 as payment for her annual leave, arrears in wages, air ticket, and travel and food allowance.

Caban said she was hired by Lee in August 2014 and finished her first contract with her. She went home on Aug 8, 2016 and waited in her hometown Tuguegarao, Cagayan, for nearly seven months as Lee could not decide whether to rehire her.

Lee eventually told her to come back and the helper returned on Mar 14, 2017. When she left the employer’s flat on Mar 29 this year, Lee refused to return her passports.

  Caban said she had gone twice to the Shatin Police to report the problem about her passports but the officers did not act on her complaint.

She also asked the assistance to nationals section of the Consulate for help but was issued a one-way travel document and told to apply for a new passport back home.

Caban applied for an extension of her visa on Jun 25, but was given only two days to remain in Hong Kong.

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