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Labatt suspends agency, helps DH recover bulk of illegal fee she paid

02 September 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao 

A Hong Kong employment agency has been suspended by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for acting as a sub-agent of a local agency that had allegedly charged a newly arrived Filipina helper a $12,500 “placement fee.”

Labor Attaché Nida Romulo interviews a complainant.
An official of the suspended agency also returned $5,000 of the $7,500 that Ronalyn Nisperos had already paid, and handed back her passport during a meeting in the office of Labor Attaché Nida Romulo on Aug 19.

Romulo did not identify the agency that had stamped (or allowed its name to be used) in the employment contract of Nisperos, but the domestic worker named it as Top Wealth Employment Agency, which has its offices in Blissful Building on Des Voeux Road, Central.

The owner of Vast Sky Employment Ltd, which placed Nisperos in Hong Kong on Apr 11, did not show up at the Polo meeting.

“We suspended the processing of contracts from that agency (Top Wealth) on the very day the worker came here to file a complaint,” said Romulo in an interview. “It acted as a sub-agent and the owner knows that is against the undertaking that it had signed with Polo,” she said.

Romulo would not say how long the suspension would be, saying that will be determined by her superiors.

She said workers who are overcharged by agencies should not be afraid to come out and file a complaint at POLO.

“We will act immediately against any agency once we receive a complaint,” she said.

An amendment in February this year of laws governing employment agencies in Hong Kong has criminalized the overcharging of placement fees, with the maxium penalty set at three years imprisonment and fine of up to $350,000.

Nisperos complained to POLO on Aug 12 that Vast Sky had demanded that she pay $5,000 by Aug 14, on top of the $7,500 that she had already paid. She told Romulo that she paid the agency $2,500 cash upfront in Manila, and made two monthly payments of $2,500 each to the agency when she arrived in Hong Kong.

Nisperos also told Romulo that the agency had kept her passport as a security for the illegal fees.

A check by Romulo found out that Vast Sky, which operates from Seven Seas Shopping Centre in North Point, was not accredited by Polo. On finding that Top Wealth had stamped the worker’s contract, Romulo called the company’s representative to her office.

She also advised the worker that she can report Vast Sky to the Employment Agency Administration for over-charging and keeping her travel document.

When Polo called up an executive of Vast Sky to tell him about the complaint, he in turn rang Nisperos and told her how upset he was about her move. The worker said the agency representative had offered to waive the remaining $5,000 and invited her to the agency on Aug 19 to settle the issue, but Romulo told the worker not to go.  “We’ll ask them to come here, don’t go to the agency,” Romulo said.

The agency executive also reportedly contacted Nisperos' employer to tell him about the worker’s complaint. But instead of siding with the agency, the male employer told the helper not to worry because he knew the payment was illegal.

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