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Filipina in viral window-cleaning photos sacked by employer

01 September 2017

M.R. was photographed by neighbors while cleaning her employer’s window.

By Daisy CL Mandap 

A Filipina domestic worker who was pictured by concerned neighbors clinging precariously to a wall while cleaning windows from the outside of a flat was terminated by her employers at midnight on Aug. 29.

M.R. Sta. Cruz, 37, told The SUN her employers kept prodding her to write a termination letter as she seemed to be unhappy working for them but she did not budge. In retaliation, she was given a termination letter and told to leave the house in the wee hours.

Before this, Sta. Cruz said she complained to her employers about being made to clean the outside windows of their first floor flat in Grand Garden, Repulse Bay, but was told their contract did not include this restriction.

Sta. Cruz, who is on her first overseas employment, said she and her employer signed the contract in August last year, but she arrived in Hong Kong to start working for his family on October 15.

That time the Hong Kong government had already confirmed plans to ban the cleaning of outside parts of windows but the restriction was added to the standard employment comtracts of foreign domestic workers only on Jan. 1 this year.

On page 3 of the new blue contract, which lists the Schedule of Accommodation and Domestic Duties, Item no. 6 states that:

“When requiring the Helper to clean the outside of any window which is not located on the ground level or adjacent to a balcony (on which it must be reasonably safe for the Helper to work) or common corridor (“exterior window cleaning”) the exterior window cleaning must be performed under the following conditions:—

(i) the window being cleaned is fitted with a grille which is locked or secured in a manner that prevents the grille being opened; and

(ii) no part of the Helper’s body extends beyond the window ledge except the arms.”

Despite the implementation of the new policy, Sta. Cruz’s employers appeared bent on ignoring it, and reportedly told her to clean the windows thoroughly on a daily basis.

The order was enforced even with the approach of a typhoon, which explained why the windows which dela Cruz was seen cleaning in the viral photos were all taped up.

“Ang dulas nga noon kasi maulan,” dela Cruz said. Despite this, she kept her usual practice of cleaning the glass windows thoroughly with wet newspapers before polishing them with a rag.

She said the pictures were taken by a concerned neighbor who noticed her daily window cleaning from an opposite building. it was this same neighbor she called when her employers ejected her from their house at an ungodly time on Aug. 29.

But being told to do the risky task was just one of the many things dela Cruz said she had to put up with during her 10-month employment.

She reportedly was not given a key to the house, was checked on constantly through the CCTVs installed throughout the house, had her passport taken away by her employer, was mostly fed leftovers, and was allowed to sleep only for four hours on average.

Last July, she said her employers forced her to take her annual leave while they went on a vacation in the United States. They reportedly told her she would be refunded her air fare if she ddin’t terminate their comtract ahead of time.

But when the employer and his wife chose to end the contract themselves they reportedly charged the vacation to her annual leave, and even deducted a sum from her last paycheck to pay for what was not covered.

Still, dela Cruz said she would have held on to her job because she needed money to help her husband provide for their three kids back in their hometown in Pangasinan.

“Unang kontrata ko pa lang at ayaw kong magka bad record kasi gusto kong makalipat sa ibang bansa, “ said dela Cruz, who holds a degree in computer science.

For now, she’s hoping to get help from Consulate officials so she could be allowed to process a new work contract in Hong Kong. The photos taken of her while cleaning windows from the outside on a stormy day could hopefully convince Immigration authorities that she had tried her best to keep her job.

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