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DH says she filmed herself cleaning 19th floor window in case she fell

07 January 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

HK banned dangerous window cleaning by domestic workers 3 years ago

A Filipina helper has told the Labour Tribunal she filmed herself cleaning the exterior window of her employers’ 19th floor flat in Repulse Bay last year so there would be proof in case she fell. But she denied sharing the video on social media to discredit her employer.

Nerie Mier gave evidence on Jan 6, the third day of hearing her $45,931 claim against her employer for her alleged illegal dismissal.

Mier is also seeking $13,613 in food allowance, accusing Ip of giving her either leftovers, instant noodles or none at all, so she and co-worker Girlie were often forced to buy their own food.
The employer, Garfield Ip Kam-tim, has denied Mier was ordered to do the dangerous window-cleaning.

He said that after her video went viral, the Consulate called and told him he was violating the law for letting the maid clean the outside part of his window.

Ip, who said he is the landlord of the building, claimed he also received letters from tenants saying he broke the law.
Hong Kong banned exterior window cleaning starting January 2017, a few months after Filipina Rinalyn Duollog fell from her employer’s high-rise flat in Tseung Kwan O while cleaning windows.

Mier said she took the video clip on the morning of Feb 20 last year after Ip’s wife ordered her to clean the window of their 19th floor flat even if she was not feeling well.

Fearing for her safety, she sent the clip to her husband in Albay, who forwarded it to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office. In the afternoon the film reportedly went viral on Facebook.
The maid, who was crying while relating the window-cleaning incident, said she made the video so her family would know her employers were making her do dangerous work.

“My male employer accused me of sharing the video on social media. The fact is, I sent the video to my husband because if I fell from the ledge, he would know I was cleaning the window,” Mier said, adding her worried husband had urged her to come home.

Mier, who has two children, said she did not know who shared the video on Facebook, suggesting it could be the Consulate to warn workers not to perform that kind of task.

It appeared the video was also sent to the Labour Department. Ip said someone from the Department’s office in Mong Kok had called to warn him that he could be prosecuted over the incident.

Ip, cross-examining Mier, denied his wife ordered the maid to clean their flat’s window exterior. He said his maids used a window cleaning robot which is operated from inside the flat to reach the external panes.

But Mier said the device was defective and the cleaning pad might fall off, so she stepped on the ledge and did the job manually.     

The employer said he would not pay Mier’s claims for loss of earnings and meal allowance since Mar 15 last year.

He insisted Mier had resigned on Feb. 15 and showed a letter purportedly from her but was not signed. He also said that since that day, he had received several calls from loan companies she owed money to.

Mier said she gave a one-month notice on Feb 15 but Ip ordered her to leave on Feb 26.

Presiding officer Michael Lok asked Ip why he did not call an employment agency staff named Janet as his witness since she seemed to know the case very well, instead of asking  his wife and another maid, Girlie, to testify.

Before Ip stepped down from the witness box, Lok asked the employer to read two statements he had submitted as evidence and confirm if they were true and correct.

The hearing will resume on Monday, Jan. 13.
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