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New minimum wage of $4630 a month welcomed by Polo, but migrant leaders say it's 'slave pay'

27 September 2019

Foreign domestic workers in HK will now be paid no less than $4630 per month
The Hong Kong government has raised the minimum wage for foreign domestic workers from $4,520 to $4,630 per month, an increase of $110.

But those who get food allowance  in lieu of free food from their employers will only have a monthly increase of $46, from $1,075 to $1,121 per month.

The increase will apply to all domestic worker contracts signed on or before tomorrow, Sept. 28. Those submitted to the Immigration Department today or earlier will still be processed at the old minimum wage rates.
However, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office says employers who want to be generous can ask to amend the contracts they have already submitted for processing at Polo or the Consulate but have not reached Immigration to reflect the higher wage.

"Pwede naman yan habang nasa amin pa ang kontrata," said Polo officer-in-charge Antonio Villafuerte. "It will be for the benefit of our workers, anyway."

As was the practice previously, the employer needs only to cross out the previous salary indicated and write down the new minimum wage, then sign over the amendment before giving it back to Polo.
Villafuerte says increase is 'better than nothing'

Villafuerte says Polo welcomes the increase, as it comes amid fears that it may not be forthcoming because of the economic slowdown that has resulted from nearly four months of turbulent anti-government protests across Hong Kong.

"We consider that as a welcome development, considering the problems faced by Hong Kong now," he said. "It's better than nothing."
But militant migrant leaders who have pressed for the monthly salary to be raised to $5,890 are not happy with the increase.

"Again, we find it demeaning to migrant workers because it does not reflect the government's supposed appreciation of our important contribution to Hong Kong's economic growth," said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body.

"We need to be paid a living wage of at least $5,894 a month because that's how much we need to provide for the basic needs of our family, based on a study by Oxfam," said Pelaez. 
Militant groups say $5894 a month is what a FDW needs to provide for her family's basic needs

But she said the "piecemeal increase" granted yearly to migrants is the result of the relentless effort by progressive migrant organizations to keep fighting for their rights.

"Kung walang nakikipaglaban para sa aming karapatan, baka ni hindi nag-increase. Kasi nga maugong ang balita na baka mag wage cut pa katulad noong 2003 dahil sa kaguluhan sa Hong Kong ngayon."

A statement issued by her group later called the new salary as "still a slave wage." It said the increase does not even cover the inflation rate, which according to a government report, is 3.4%.

Villafuerte said he, along with representatives of other Asian consulates, were called to the Labour Department at about 5pm today so they could be informed about the new minimum wage before it was announced to the public. 

A statement from the government said the minimum wage for FDHs is reviewed regularly according to established practice. This means ascertaining the general economic and labor market conditions over the past year “as reflected through a basket of economic indicators, including the relevant income movement and price changes in this year's review,” said the statement.

The government is also said to take into account Hong Kong’s economic outlook in the near term, and balances the employer’s means with the interest of FDWs.
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