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DH expelled by employer at dawn settles claim for $1,770

23 August 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina helper who was driven out by her employer in the wee hours just 12 days since starting work, has agreed to settle her claims against the latter for $1,770, a tiny fraction of what she had originally asked for.

Aiza Bico said after agreeing to settle the case at the Labour Tribunal on Aug 23 that she just wanted “to end my torment once and for all.”

Bico tried, but failed, to convince the tribunal to order teh employer to refund her agency fees

Bico had originally asked for $14,031 from her employer Veronica Lau Wai-yi for unpaid wages, a month’s salary in lieu of notice, traveling allowance, one-way air ticket and refund for the agency fees that she paid in Manila.
But presiding officer David Chum only allowed the payment of the helper’s wages and other entitlements under the contract, minus the salary in lieu and agency fees which Bico had calculated at $7.615.38 (Php49,500).

“Why do you ask your employer to reimburse you when she had already paid the agency in Hong Kong for all these? You ask the agency for the refund, maybe it did not remit the money,” the officer said. He warned Bico she would lose in a trial.

But Chum also disregarded Lau’s attempt to deduct $279.20 from Bico’s pay for the two days that she allegedly took a day off.  Chum warned Lau she risked breaking the law for not paying for those two days.
The officer said that as each party was claiming a month’s salary of $4,520 in lieu of notice, they must go to trial if they insist on this claim. They will have to give proof as to who ended the contract, and wait for six to eight months.

But if they wanted to settle the case on the same day, they could do so in 15 minutes.
 
The officer called for a break in the hearing, and at the resumption after lunch, both Bico and Lau accepted the $1,770 proposed by Chum.
In her claim, Bico said Lau had forced her to sign a draft letter stating that she was leaving because she was unable to do her work properly. Bico said she gave the resignation letter at 10:35pm on Jul 3, stating she would leave on Aug 3.

But while she was asleep at 12:30 am on Jul 4, she was woken up by Lau, who ordered her to leave immediately. She said she begged to go in the morning but Lau called the agency. Lau then let her talk to a staff who told her, “Pack your things and go.”

The Filipina said she had to walk from the employer’s house in Ngau Tau Kok to the MTR station in Kowloon Bay at 1:45am, unaware that the station was already closed.

She then called 999 and, when police came, she asked if they could persuade Lau to let her stay in her flat until the morning. They however, said, they could do nothing if she refused.

She said she then begged the officers to take her to her agency, Grandview Employment Agency in Hung Hom, but they told her it was not part of their duty. 

As it was raining, she stayed under a footbridge, then went to a park and sat where there was a CCTV camera for her security.

At 6am, she went to the MTR and traveled to Whampoa where she stayed in the agency’s boarding house, spending her own money for her food. She sought help from the Consulate and the Mission for Migrant Workers, which put her up in its Jordan Road shelter.

In a conciliation meeting on Jul 15 at the Labour Relations Division in Kwun Tong, Lau wanted to give Bico just an air ticket to Cauayan, Isabela, saying it was very costly.

Bico, a mother of two from Roxas town, told The SUN this was her first work abroad, for which she paid A&W International in Manila PhP60,000 borrowed from her sister. The agency reportedly told her this was for her medical examination and video and training fees.

She plans to go the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to ask for a refund of the money she paid the agency, and if possible, have her employer put on the blacklist.
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