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FDHs push for $5,890 minimum wage in talks with Labour

24 July 2019

Migrant workers led by Eman Villanueva, Eni Lestari and Dolores Balladores-Pelaez face the media after their closed-door meeting to present their minimum wage proposal to Labour Department officials on Wednesday, Jul 24.

By Vir B. Lumicao

Migrant workers urged the Hong Kong government today, Jul 24, to raise their minimum wage to $5,890 a month, describing their current pay of $4,520 as slave wage. They also called for a $2,600 food allowance.

Leaders of migrant groups presented their wage proposal to Labour Department's Wage Review Board representatives currently consulting the public for inputs in their review of the minimum wage for the city’s 380,000 foreign domestic workers this year.

The Board usually announces its decision around September.  

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But, emerging from an hour-long meeting at the Labour Department in Sheung Wan, the migrant leaders said they were disappointed because there was no transparency in the government’s calculation of their minimum wage.

“We believe this process is just a showcase. It is not honest, it is not sincere in the government that they want to listen to our voice,” said Eni Lestari, spokeswoman of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body. “Again until now, after many, many years, we asked the government, how do you calculate the wages of the domestic workers. They never have a formula or calculation.” 

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She said the government’s calculation is not transparent and, therefore, unfair to the domestic workers and even to employers, as they do not know the basis for the new minimum wage.

Eman Villanueva, an AMCB spokesman, said the migrant workers are pushing their campaign for Hong Kong to adopt the living wage standard calculated by Oxfam Hong Kong in a study presented to the International Labor Organization last December.

“We are asking for a $5,894 as the minimum wage for domestic workers. The main basis for this is the calculation made by Oxfam Hong Kong on the living wage standard in Hong Kong right now, which they say is about $54.70 per hour,” said Villanueva.

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He said the minimum wage of $4,520 a month is one of the lowest for migrant workers and raising it to the living wage level will improve Hong Kong's image as a city where modern-day slavery still exists.

Villanueva said the migrant workers also reiterated their demand for a $2,600 monthly food allowance based on government statistics that per capita food expenditure in Hong Kong is about $2,600 every month.

The current food allowance for helpers is just $1,075 a month, just about 40% of the actual per capita food expenditure, he said.

“We are also living in Hong Kong, we are also Hong Kong people and you know the standard for the food allowance should be based on the actual expenditure in Hong Kong which the government said is $2,600,” Villanueva said.

The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions, whose representatives also attended the meeting, demanded a MAW of $5,800 and food allowance of $2,500.

FADWU also urged the government to include migrant domestic workers in the coverage of Hong Kong’s Minimum Wage Ordinance.

Villanueva said the workers also asked the Labour Department to consider listing in the employment contract toilets, kitchens, cupboards and hallways as unsuitable accommodation.

“I think the government’s definition of suitable accommodation is not so clear, so it is time for them to list it down for the items I mentioned,” he said.

Another concern the workers brought up was overcharging by employment agencies. The government representative just explained what Labour is doing as part of its action plan, Villanueva said.

“We reiterated that the problem of overcharging or illegal collection is still very rampant and widespread, so there seems to be a mismatch in what they are doing and it seems they are not effective because the problem is persisting anyway,” he said.

He said the migrant workers suggested more practical ways to solve the problem.

The meeting was also attended by Mission for Migrant Workers general manager Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, director Edwina Antonio and case officer Esther Bangcawayan.
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