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‘Abused’ Filipina pursues claim against employer

30 November 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

Lanie Rosareal  reviews her documents at the Labour Tribunal.
A Filipina who allegedly suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of her employer’s live-in companion is set to go to the Labour Tribunal on Dec. 5 to press a claim for unpaid wages for six months, overtime pay and other compensation.

Lanie Grade Rosareal, 27, will be accompanied by fellow domestic helper Rowela Subiono Suete, 36, who fled the employer’s house in Tseung Kwan O with her on Nov. 9.

The labour claim is separate from a police complaint for physical assault that Rosareal has filed against her employer’s companion, Au Wai-chun, 65, a retired civil servant who was convicted on Sept. 1, 2014, of scalding a Bangladeshi maid with hot water. (see: http://www.scmp. com/news/hong-kong/article/1583001/ex-civil-servant-found-guilty-burning-maid-scalding-hot-water)

Both Rosareal and Suete failed to reach a settlement with their employer, Leung Sher-ying, 63, when they met separately with conciliators at the Labour Department office in Kwun Tong on Nov. 21.

Leung had denied withholding Rosareal’s salary, saying the helper voluntarily gave it all to Au each month as part of their “private agreement” on paying a penalty each time the helper committed an infraction.

Leung also demanded the equivalent of a month’s salary from each helper, saying they were the ones who terminated their work contracts when they left her house without giving the required one month’s notice.

When the negotiations reached a stalemate, Leung made a final offer to Suete. The employer said she would drop her claim for one month’s pay in lieu of notice, but would not pay for the helper’s 19 days of work. Leung also said she would not pay for Suete’s return air fare, but would buy the ticket herself.

Suete, who was demanding payment for unpaid wages, return air fare, and for a month’s salary in lieu of notice on grounds of Leung’s constructive termination of their work contract, rejected the offer.

Both Filipinas agreed to elevate their cases to the Labour Tribunal when asked by the conciliators for their next move.

In her labor case against Leung, Rosareal listed down a claim for around $50,000, including $31,500 in unpaid wages for six months and 19 days; $4, 210 monthly pay in lieu of notice; severance pay of $10,600; plus food allowance and return air fare.

The labour officer suggested Rosareal could also demand compensation for her injuries as part of her claim.

But more than the unpaid wages, Rosareal, who started working for Leung in January 2014, says it was the abuse she wants retribution for.

Rosareal said she used to have a good relationship with both Leung and Au, and even took the latter to the court while the Bangladeshi maid’s assault case was ongoing. But things started to change early this year, when Au allegedly started complaining about being tortured by the helper.

In statements she submitted to the Consulate and the police, Rosareal recounted how she received nearly daily beatings from Au, who also took all her salary as “punishment” for various self-determined misdeeds, such as not pressing the collar of a shirt properly, or “not taking the black (particles) in the congee”.

Au, who goes around in a wheelchair outside of the house, would allegedly kick Rosareal or stomp on her back, whenever the helper refused to kneel in front of her and then knock her own forehead on the floor.

The elderly woman who is said to suffer from spinal injury, also allegedly scratched or punched Rosareal routinely. In her police statement, Rosareal said Au had poked a pair of scissors at her throat, and talked of wanting to get a knife so she could chop the Filipina to pieces.

Her complaint, which she lodged at Western Police Station, has been passed on to the Tseung Kwan O Police Station for further investigation.

In a separate complaint she made earlier before Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre, Rosareal, related how she skipped taking a day-off for months so she could pay for the “penalties” which for October alone, had totaled $7,670.

Asked why she tolerated the abuse, Rosareal said she was scared Leung would make good on the threat of getting her arrested for using an Octopus card she was lent to buy a $28 meal once, when she got hungry during an errand.

Leung reportedly kept out of the way often, but would sometimes do Au’s bidding of whipping Rosareal with a stick to keep peace.

Suete’s arrival at the household in mid-October came as a blessing for Rosareal. Saying she couldn’t bear the sound of her fellow helper’s wailings at night, Suete sought help from a friend.

Hearing about their story, a concerned citizen helped them escape from their employer’s house in The Grandiose in Tseung Kwan O, then took them to Labatt Torre, who promptly put the employer and her companion on a watchlist.

The two Filipinas are now staying at a shelter while preparing for the upcoming hearing of their cases.

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