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Salary in coins snaps virtual slave’s patience

22 July 2016

Corazon's weighty pay
For three months, Corazon silently suffered through slave-like conditions in the household of her Chinese employers in Sai Kung. Many were the times she was fed rotten food, or woken up in the middle of the night so she could iron clothes.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was when her employers paid her a weighty salary – a bag of $10 coins totaling just more than $3,470 after questionable deductions. And this, after her pay was inexplicably delayed for seven days.
The helper, a 28-year-old single mother, has walked out on her job and is now talking with her agency about her next option.
“When I asked for my salary, my employers said they had no money. Then, after seven days, that’s what they gave me. I didn’t bother to ask them why they gave coins,” Corazon said.
The maid said her employers, both teachers, had treated her badly since she began working for them in April.
“If they gave me food, it would already be spoiled, or it was all fishbone,” she said. “And they made me work me like a carabao.”
One time, the maid said she begged to fry an egg because she was very weak from lack of food, but the employers allegedly told her: “No, it’s not your food.”
It was food doled out by other Filipinas on the block that helped her survive, Corazon said.
What’s more, the maid said that since July 4, the couple had been leaving her in the lobby for half a day. Unable to enter the flat, she would wait for them to return home late at night before she could eat.
At other times, the couple would wake her up at past midnight after her day off, saying it was time she resumed work.
A long list of deductions from her pay
Or they would ask her to iron clothes at midnight, knocking on her door when she was already about to sleep. 
Corazon had other complaints: “I had been to the hospital a number of times because my shoulder swelled. My doctor advised my employers to provide me a trolley but they didn’t listen,” Corazon said.
During these summer days, Corazon said she would sleep with her clothes off in her room because she was not allowed to use electricity.
“It’s too hot in my room because they (employers) sealed the wall socket in my room with tape so I couldn’t plug an electric fan,” the maid said.
She said she had been warned that if the employers caught her using electricity, they would call the police and tell them she had been stealing power from them.
Now tired of all the abuses she had suffered, Corazon gave her employers a month’s notice that she was terminating her contract.
The maid showed a piece of paper where the employers computed deductions from her salary for June. The was a deduction of $138.40 times two, apparently for two days of absences, $112 for 8.5 hours of absence out of 10.5 hours of work, $300 for a crystal apparently broken, $30 for a bucket and $20 for two missing spoons.
Filipina helpers employed previously by the couple said they had mostly lasted only a few months. One who claimed she was the couple’s first helper said she managed to carry on with her work for just a year and five months. She said her successor stayed five months, the next one managed eight months, the fourth stayed seven, and the fifth, eight.
The informant, however, could not remember how long the helper who Corazon replaced had lasted.
Having given up on her job, Corazon's only hope for recourse now is to get her abusive employers on the “watch list” of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office so they don’t get to hire and oppress another Filipina helper again. – Vir B. Lumicao 
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