五一遊行當天，有那麼一群姊妹， 身著鮮艷，敲著空洗潔精瓶子和玻璃樽，在隊伍裡吵吵鬧鬧地出現。高舉的牌子上寫著：“Wage Increase $5000”、“Regulate Working Hours”，以及其他說來艱澀但殘忍的政策。亞洲移住人士組織（Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, AMCB）在五一前夕出了一篇聲明（Link3），解釋訴求背後的原因。看不慣文宣的我們，欲從故事出發，先認識她們獨特的生活，她們眼中的香港人，再去談工時、工資，以至對不同種族家務工的理解是否合理。
On May 1st, a group of sisters showed up in the march, wearing colorful clothes, knocking empty detergent containers and glass bottles, yelling loudly. They held high signboards which wrote: “Wage Increase $5000”, “Regulate Working Hours”, and other incomprehensible but cruel policies. On May 1st, Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) published a statement (Link3) to explain those slogans. Being not comfortable with reading propaganda, we are going to start with stories: only when we learn of their unique lives and views of Hongkongers in advance, can we judge whether the working hours, salary, and even our understanding towards migrant workers are reasonable.
Study beyond work: If we can find jobs in our hometown…
Dhika is a cool girl with neat short hair, tying a white headscarf and sitting in a circle at the soccer field. (Her friend said she was lively, but while interviewing she seems a bit nervous. ) Dhika has been in Hong Kong for around five years, and is now working in Ho Man Tin to take care of two old people. Every day, she gets up at 7:00a.m., prepares lunch and dinner except the breakfast, and eats with grandma and grandpa. In the remaining time, she does cleaning and accompanies grandma and grandpa. She often finishes work at 8 o’clock at night, then grandma and grandpa would chat with her until they sleep (around 9:30p.m.).
每逢星期日，除了與朋友在維園相聚，從下午一點到五點，她還在上環的Saint Mary’s University修讀管理業務（ Buisness Management）。讀了兩年半的她，已準備畢業，然後有什麼打算？“印尼很多工人像我們一樣，都找不到工作；我想回去為他們提供工作。”說著，Dhika的眼神裡流露出對未來的憧憬。她每月的學費是$650，但每選修多一科，就要額外付$150。Dhika說自己也不記得修了多少科，總之不是一筆小數目。
Every Sundays, besides gathering with friends in Victoria Park, she takes the degree courses of Buisness Management in Saint Mary’s University in Sheung Wan from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Having studied for two years and a half, she is about to graduate. What’s the next plan? “In Indonesia, many workers like us cannot find jobs, so I hope to provide jobs for them when I go back.” Saying so, Dhika expressed her prospect towards the future. Her monthly tuition is $650, but additional $150 should be paid if she elects an extra course. Dhika forgot how many courses she has elected, but it won’t be a small number.
She has a Hong Kong friend, who is the Employer’s (grandma and grandpa’s daughter) friend. Her friend would come to the family sometimes, and chat with her other than work without any communication difficulties. She said HongKongers are nice, and even the security guard of the apartment is her friend as well; but there are also HongKongers who talk rudely to them, thinking they are only workers. Talking about local labour organizations, she was not familiar with them; but undertanding the demands for minimum wage and regulation on working hours, she said migrant workers are facing the same problem, which is why she joined the march today: “We are not robots, we are workers. We are the same. We are also human.”
Distance between Hong Kong and Indonesia, is just you and me
一位姊妹帶我們來到Sring面前。她是印尼家務工組織Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU)的主席，爽快地答應了我們的短訪。Sring來香港十五年，換過四個家庭，現在主要負責清潔，有時僱主工作回家也會叫她煮飯。每天八點起床，晚上大概十點結束工作，回房間做自己的事。撇去第一次來港的中介費一萬元，她每個月的電話費、交通費、食物加起來大概一千港幣，每月寄回印尼的家用也是一千左右。
A sister took us to Sring. She is the president of Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU), a
nd accepted our interview readily. Sring has been to Hong Kong for 15 years, changing four families, and is now responsible for cleaning, and sometimes cooking when required by the employer. She gets up at 8 a.m. every day, and finishes work at around 10 p.m., then she can do her own stuff in the room. Despite the agency fee of $10,000 she needs to pay upon first visit to Hong Kong, her monthly expenses on telephone fees, transportation and food is about $1,000, plus around $1,000 family expenses she sends back Indonesia every month.
Sring usually holds educational training with sisters in Central Library on Sundays. The training includes Hong Kong and Indonesian labour legislations, employment contract, as well as consultation which encourages sisters to tell their plight. Since many sisters wish to know their rights through provisions to avoid deception and oppression, the training has a good response.
Sring said she would talk with Hong Kong friends about different cultures, like Indonesian can eat very spicy food, but HongKongers are not quite used to spice. She observes that HongKongers often speak loudly, which sounds like cursing, so many sisters would be scared to answer the employer’s questions in the beginning; then the employer is confused about why they don’t talk and even cry sometimes, creating misunderstandings. Therefore, she thinks the most important thing is to communicate with Hong Kong friends to reach mutual understanding. She mentioned the relationship between employers and workers is alienated. The ultimate reason is that in Hong Kong, people seldom care about neighbours, even the responsibility to take care of children is simplified as paying for schools etc. The technology here is so advanced that, unlike in Indonesia, there is land and agriculture, “people have no idea about how bananas come from the tree; they only know how to eat.”
Talked about the plight of local labours, Sring said actually even the local middle class are also facing problems like long working hours, or else they won’t have to recruit domestic helpers. However, if we say local workers are the same as sisters, do they need to live with their employers? Sring mentioned the compulsory live-in rule in the employment contract. Some people think it is for sisters’ safety, and worries that they would have babies outside; but Sring said frankly: “Having babies is not much fun.” Many employers say they regard workers as family members, but Sring asked, “If you regard us as family member, why can’t we have holidays? Why should we stand aside while eating? Why (the domestic work) should be done all by us?” So she thinks friendship is more appropriate–if the relationship is only employer/worker, the gap is too large.
Remember that when we asked about the impression on HongKongers, Sring’s first comment was “They respect the law.” Although some employers do not follow the law, she understands that they are persuaded by the agency, in fact, no employers would like to mistreat workers. She said the solidarity of HongKongers is strong, which can be illustrated through Umbrella Movement. Interestingly, she asked us instead, “Do you really need (universal suffrage)?” She explained that ‘
one person one vote’ is certainly great, but in Indonesia, presidential candidates are not from their community; instead, they are picked up by ‘someone else’, so it is not that democratic at all. Moreover, many candidates only care about social livelihood for the votes, and that’s why many Hong Kong local political parties ignore migrant workers’ issues. Sring’s attention to and analysis of Hong Kong’s issues impressed us a lot.
Help others, help ourselves
We found Fatmawati in the march. She was holding a batch of handbills, yelling with a resonating and decisive voice, which seems incompatible with her short stature. Fatmawati came to Hong Kong in 2005, and is now taking care of the elderly. Every day, she wakes up at 7 a.m. and starts to buy food for the meals, do the laundry, and take grandma and grandpa to hang around in wheelchairs. Usually, she can rest at around 10 p.m., but sometimes grandma and grandpa would be hungry at 2-3 a.m., she has to get up to cook for them; or when they cannot fall asleep and watch TV instead, she has to be aside. So she often don’t get enough sleep. She buys food for breakfast, lunch and dinner including soup every three days, but each time her employer only gives her $150, so she has to calculate the expenses carefully. Since her employer does not provide food for her, she bought Indonesian noodles, bread and coffee every week.
作為印尼家務工組織Asosiasi Buruh Migran Indonesia di Hong Kong (ATKI-HK)的成員，Fatmawati每個星期日都在維園，幫姊妹解決難題，如被僱主“炒”等。一個禮拜只有一天休息，還要兼顧組織工作，不會太辛苦嗎？“辛苦都唔緊要，因為我覺得幫人都好嘅，可以幫手好開心。”Fatmawati腼腆地笑著。
As a member of Asosiasi Buruh Migran Indonesia di Hong Kong (ATKI-HK), Fatmawati stays in Victoria Park evey Sunday to help with sisters’ problems, such as being fired by employers and so on. Wouldn’t it be exhausting to take up organization work on the only rest day of the week? “It does not matter whether it’s exhausting, because I think it is good to help others, and I’m happy to help.” Fatmawati smiled shyly.
We asked her to describe her opinions on HongKongers, she started with the employers since she knows few local people. She thought some employers were good, but she also had unpleasant experience. Her first employer only gave her a monthly salary of $2,000. The employer once wronged her of stealing, she could only find the Labour Department for help. At first, the Labour Department gave no response, but eventually it fined the employer for $19,000. However, Fatmawati was forced to terminate the contract after working for 18 months (Reporter’s note: a standard contract lasts for 2 years), and found a new employer with the help of the agency. Talking about this experience, she felt helpless, “Actually we are reluctant to change employers, but when bosses mistreat us, and we still have to live with them, and everything we do is wrong…if bosses are nice, we are sure to treat them the same way.”
 Why don’t we use the common term “foreign domestic workers” to call those sisters who come from Indonesia, Philippines and other countries? We think concerning those who contribute the city in the same way as the local, such term specifiying “external/internal” has made a fundamental exclusion.