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Tribunal tells FDH to post ad to locate no-show employer

02 March 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Zerrudo, who says she was not allowed to go out for 7 months, enjoys her newfound freedom

When her former employer did not show up at the Labour Tribunal on Feb 18 for the scheduled hearing of her claim of unpaid wages totaling more than $9,000, C.A. Zerrudo was almost certain she would win her case by default.

After all, she had complied with the instructions of a labour officer to send by registered mail to her employer, Chung Yin-ha, her claim notice, along with a letter she had sent to Immigration explaining why she was forced to leave the employer’s house.

Pindutin para sa detalye

In her letter to Immigration in August last year, Zerrudo claimed she was forced to effect a constructive dismissal of her employment contract as Chung did not allow her to take a day off for the nearly seven months that she was in her employ.

As her letter to Chung was not returned to her registered address, which was the Mission for Migrant Workers’ office in Central, Zerrudo felt confident they would see each other again on the scheduled hearing date at the Tribunal.

To her dismay, Chung did not show up, so the hearing of her claim was postponed to Sept 23. On top of this, she was also told by tribunal officer W.H. Pun to put out an advertisement in a local Chinese newspaper about the next hearing date, to serve as public notice to her employer.

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Nakakapanlambot kasi ginawa ko naman ang dapat kong gawin para maabisuhan si Chung na dapat siyang humarap sa korte para sagutin ang reklamo ko,” Zerrudo said.

(It’s frustrating because I did everything that I was supposed to do to ensure Chung would appear in court to respond to my complaint).

Zerrudo sought help from Mission case officer Edwina Antonio, who told her that the order was unusual but not rare. Antonio said an Indonesian client of the Mission received the same order, and ended up paying around $800 for the advertisement.

But realizing how difficult it would be for Zerrudo to get permission from her new employer to take more time off to comply with the tribunal’s order, Antonio suggested the helper appeal the order.

On Feb 22, Zerrudo faxed a letter of appeal to Pun, explaining her difficulty in complying with the order, including the additional financial burden on her. But a week later, she received a letter from the Tribunal, quoting officer Pun as saying, “the order issued on Feb. 18 stands.”


Bakit hanggang ngayon ay ako pa rin ang nahihirapan na ipaglaban ang kaso ko?” asked Zerrudo with a touch of bitterness. (Why am I still being made to bear the burden of fighting my case until now?)

According to the Filipina, she arrived in Hong Kong for the first time in January last year to work for Chung, as well as for her married son Au, his wife and their two children.

At the beginning, she was told that she could take a day off every Friday. But this never happened because a few days after she arrived, Hong Kong recorded its first Covid-19 case, and Au reportedly told Zerrudo she should not leave the house because she might bring the virus home with her.

The Labour Tribunal rejected Zerrudo's appeal against the publication order

Zerrudo said she was allowed to go out briefly to send money home or buy grocery supplies, but never alone because Chung or the other members of her family would always accompany her to make sure she went home directly afterwards.

The helper’s resentment grew, but not knowing anyone in Hong Kong, she said she did not know how to get help. Also, Chung and Au reportedly shouted at her all the time, and would fight noisily every now and then that she became too scared to keep asking about being allowed to go out.

Still, she did not give up altogether. In her mobile phone are stored several messages she sent to her employment agency complaining about her predicament. But each time, she was advised to bear with it, as the pandemic was worsening. Zerrudo was also warned she would have to pay a month’s salary to her employer if she decided to terminate their contract.

Just before her birthday on Jun 12 last year, Zerrudo again begged to be let out so she could celebrate with her friends, but Chung’s family turned down her request once more. To appease her, they took her out to dinner.

By then, Zerrudo had learned about support organizations, and began seeking help. Everyone she consulted told her that not letting her out was illegal, and as such, she could leave anytime without paying compensation.

Still, she bid her time. Zerrudo said the final straw came on Aug 3 when Au, in a fit of rage, threw a printer in her direction, and almost hit her. She decided to call the police, prompting Chung to call an agency representative to work out a deal.

The talks with the police and the ensuing negotiations with the agency staff lasted the whole day, during which Zerrudo said she did not eat anything.

Tired and hungry, she took the $6,949 that was offered her for her unpaid salary, annual leave, air ticket to Mindanao and payment for one day-off and one statutory holiday, which according to her agency, was all she was entitled to.

But after consulting with the Mission, Zerrudo filed a claim for a further $9,102.26. This constitutes her one month salary in lieu of notice, owing to her alleged illegal dismissal, and payments for all the weekly days off and statutory holidays she was not allowed to take.

After a conciliation try by the Labour Department failed in December, her claim was forwarded to the Labour Tribunal for adjudication.

Zerrudo said all she could do now is wait and hope that she would be granted her just claim so she could move on with her life. 






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