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Union raises alarm over day-off cancellations due to protest

30 August 2019

By The SUN

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor
A relatively quiet Ice House St  in Central on a protest weekend

A migrant workers’ union has expressed concern over employers using the current unrest in Hong Kong to cancel their domestic worker’s only off day in the week.

According to the Filipino Migrant Workers Union, it has received complaints from domestic workers about their employers making them stay at home during their Sunday off, telling them it is not safe to go out because of the extradition protests.

“FMWU received numerous complaints from Filipino migrant workers who were either denied their rest days, or their rest days becoming irregular and adjusted arbitrarily depending on the schedule of protest actions. These have seriously violated the rights of migrant workers to one rest day per week,” said the statement issued on Aug 28.

“It has also severely affected the migrant workers’ ability to meet and socialize with their relatives and townmates. It is also affecting the workers’ participation in their union activities and campaigns.”

The Union warned the practice is illegal and could result to serious consequences for the employer.

“Employers should be reminded that not granting rest day in a week is a violation of the employment contract and punishable by law,” said FMWU’s statement.

The statement did not indicate, however, the number of complaints it has received from workers who were denied this statutory right.

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Black-clad protesters passing by Chater Road, the favorite meeting place of Filipino domestic workers

Since protests began in early June this year, the biggest mass assemblies have taken place on the weekends, especially Sunday. Most of them were also held in places close to where Filipino domestic workers hang out during their rest day.

While Philippine officials in Hong Kong see no reason to stop employers canceling their domestic workers’ Sunday off, they say an alternative rest day should be given the helper, as that is what the law provides.

Either that, or pay the worker for the day she was forced to remain in her employer’s  house.

On its own, the Consulate has been warning Filipinos not to wear clothes in either black or white on Sundays, to prevent them being identified as a protester, or trouble-maker.

It has also been issuing bulletins identifying areas where mass protests are scheduled to be held so workers could avoid them.

FMWU says it respects the rights of Hong Kong people to defend their autonomy under the One Country Two Systems policy. However, employers should not take advantage of the situation by illegally forbidding their helpers to go out.

The statement further noted that the protests against the widely unpopular extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong government have escalated over the past 12 weeks, with no end in sight for a resolution.

The FMWU is affiliated with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), the Migrants Coordinating Body and the International Migrants Alliance.

Together with these other migrant support organizations, the FMWU has been at the forefront of the campaign to protect migrant workers rights, including the right to a living wage. Recently, they called for increasing their minimum wage to $5,894 a month.

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