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Over 30 DHs fired as scare grips HK amid Covid-19 spread

17 February 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao 
Some of those fired in HK had insisted on taking their day off
Around 30 domestic workers have lost their jobs in recent days due to the scare gripping Hong Kong over the novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Office.

The termination cases reported to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office/OWWA are apart from the sacking of some of those stranded in the Philippines due to the travel ban to Hong Kong imposed on Feb. 2.

According to Dolores Balladares of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, her group has received three reports of migrant workers being terminated because they were unable to report back to work in Hong Kong as agreed upon. Another group, the Domestic Workers Corner, has received two such reports although the circumstances are unclear.

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OWWA welfare officer Marivic C. Clarin said the dismissals in Hong Kong reflected employers’ paranoia over the Covid-19 infection that has spread to the city from China at the start of the year.

Most of the contract terminations reportedly stemmed from employers relocating to China, Australia, Britain and the United States out of fear of the contagion that had infected 58 Hong Kong people as of Monday afternoon.

But Clarin said another cause of the terminations was due to workers insisting on taking a day off, despite a Labour Department advice for them to stay at home as the authorities battle to control the spread of Covid-19.
She said in some cases, the workers took their day off against the wishes of the employers and were dismissed as soon as they returned home. In most cases, the worker just wanted to send money home.

In one case, the worker was just asking permission to take her rest day when she was fired, Clarin said.

“Praning ang employers because of the virus,” Clarin said.

Clarin says some of the firings were due to the employers being unusually scared of the virus

One other reason she cited is that the employers had lost their jobs, too, and were staying home so they had no more need for the helpers.

Clarin could not immediately give a breakdown of the number of terminations because OWWA is still reportedly compiling cases passed on by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.
When asked about what possible steps a worker can do if she was dismissed for insisting on taking a day off, Clarin said the Labour Department did not mention any action against employers in these cases.

But she suggested the workers can take their case to the Labour Department as there has been no test case yet involving a dispute arising from the “stay-home” advisory.

As for the relocation-related terminations, the employers declared they were moving to other places so they had to dismiss their workers, Clarin said.

One male driver was dismissed on the spot by his employer last Saturday because the employer and his daughter were moving to Australia.

But the employer refused to give him a release letter, which the driver could show to Immigration so he would be allowed to look for a new employer and resume working without having to go home, Clarin said.

In many of the relocation-related dismissals, she said the employers refused to issue release papers because they were just relocating temporarily due to the virus and planned to return Hong Kong later.

She said Immigration should allow workers whose employers are relocating temporarily to also process new work contracts in Hong Kong.
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