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HK to study Canadian model for possible FDW work hours regulation

08 May 2019

By Daisy CL Mandap

Villanueva (5th from left) was the lone migrant representative in the meeting with CE Leung (beside him, in suit)

For the first time, the Hong Kong government has committed to look at Canada’s working hours regulation for live-in caregivers to see if they could be extended locally, particularly to migrant domestic workers.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung reportedly made this pledge during a meeting at the Central Government Offices in Tamar on May 2 with civil society leaders to discuss various labor concerns, and the need for anti-human trafficking legislation.

Eman Villanueva, who represented the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body, said Cheung told the group the government is already doing a pilot test on contractual working hours in five industries.
After this, the scheme will be reviewed to see if it could be applied in other industries as well as to domestic workers, with the Canadian system as a guide.

“This is already a good start even if Chief Secretary Cheung did not promise anything concrete,” said Villanueva, who was the lone migrant worker at the meeting attended by lawyers, ethnic minority rights advocates, trade unions and pan democratic leaders.
Under Canada’s laws, live-in caregivers are obliged to work only a maximum of 48 hours a week. 

In contrast, Hong Kong has not legislated working hours for its workforce, although 44 hours a week is the norm for government employees.
For foreign domestic workers, however, the standard employment contract (SEC) does not provide how long they must work each day. As a result, live-in FDWs work for as long as their employers require them to. Studies invariably show most work no less than 11 hours a day, with a big number working longer than 16 hours.

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and crowd
Lack of regulation means migrant workers spend no less than 11 hours at work each day

AMCB, like many migrant support groups, is urging the government to amend the SEC to include a clause for an uninterrupted rest of 11 hours for FDWs, plus meal breaks.
They also want the SEC to stipulate “decent accommodation” for FDWs, and exclude the following as unsuitable and unsafe sleeping places: toilet, kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, living room, corridor, cupboard, veranda, staircase, fire exit, rooftop and others.

Migrant support organizations are also pushing for Hong Kong to sign and ratify, even without China leading the way, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW).
They are also calling on the Hong Kong government to stop the collection of illegal fees from migrant workers, and end its two-week rule and mandatory live-in policies. The two-week rule mandates that all FDWs whose contracts are terminated must leave Hong Kong within 14 days, while the live-in policy requires them to live in their employers’ house.

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