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Two Filipina helpers give conflicting claims in window-cleaning case

19 January 2020

Dangerous window-cleaning has been outlawed since 2017 (file photo)

A Filipina who filmed herself cleaning the exterior window of her employers’ 19th floor flat in Repulse Bay on Feb 20 last year was not tasked to clean the window on that day, her fellow worker in the household has told the Labour Tribunal.

Girlie Angel made the statement on Jan 17, the last day of the hearing of a compensation claim for $45,931 brought by her co-worker Nerie Mier against their employer Ip Kam-tim for her alleged illegal dismissal.

Mier claims Ip dismissed her after the video of her cleaning the window from the outside was somehow uploaded on social media, and eventually caused the Hong Kong Labour Department to call her employer’s attention to the alleged illegal act.

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Angel supported the statement given earlier by their employer’s wife, Mrs Ip, that it was not Mier’s task to clean the windows in February. Mrs Ip also insisted she instructed the maids not to extend parts of their body outside the window when cleaning.

But when Mier asked Angel during cross-examination why she was ordered by their employer’s wife to clean the window on Feb 19, the second maid replied the “madam” would sometimes tell the helper who is not busy to do the chore if the other is occupied.

The hearing centered mainly on an exchange of message via Whatsapp between the two, when Angel was on vacation in the Philippines and Mier was alone doing the chores in the employer’s house.

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The claimant brought up the messages and Presiding Officer Michael Lok allowed them as new evidence saying he wanted to hear all evidence relating to the case.

Mier also said she was not allowed to take her day off by Mrs Ip, but Angel disputed that, saying the other helper had taught her how to lie regarding days off.

Angel also insisted that Ip’s wife paid the maids extra if she asked them to work on their day off, contrary to Mier’s claim that she was not paid for working on her days off.

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Angel’s evidence during the four-day trial revealed animosity between her and Mier.

When officer Lok asked Angel why she stabbed Mier with a ballpen on her arm and caused bruises on her neck once, the helper said it happened during an argument when her co-worker wrestled her first.

Several times while cross-examining Angel, Mier also felt compelled to say “Don’t point your finger at me!” whenever the latter lifted her finger to dispute what she was asked.

After Angel’s testimony, Ip cross-examined Mier again about what she said in her messages to the other maid about “grabeng parusa,” (grave punishment), saying he was concerned about it. He also asked why she described him as having a “masamang ugali” (bad attitude).

The claimant said “grabeng parusa” was a figure of speech meaning extra burden, referring to the employer’s guests who would stay for the night, and “masamang ugali” when his wife said it was he who would not allow her to take her day off.

Lok ordered both sides to make their final submissions on Jan. 30. – Vir B. Lumicao

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