Standard working hours came into nothing: A long way for migrant and local workers (Part 2)
When a nine-to-five job becomes a luxury, the government keeps ignoring workers’ suffer by implementing the contract working hours as a fudge. Work erodes life, what does it mean to migrant domestic workers (MDWs) whose working place is exactly their living place? I talked with two members of migrant workers’ organizations, and they coincidentally said: we are fighting together with local workers.
With poor labour treatment, democracy starts nowhere
(When labour rights are abused, peoples’ democratic rights got eroded)
見到Shiella時，是在七一遊行。香港亞洲家務工工會聯會（FADWU）橙色的橫額下，她和姊妹的一身黃衣和藍色頭巾在無盡頭的軒尼斯道上格外繽紛。進步家務工工會—香港（Progressive Labour Union of Domestic Workers-Hong Kong, PLU）是FADWU的一個屬會，成員是來自不同種族的在港家務工。來自菲律賓的Shiella告訴我，PLU每年都動員大家參加七一遊行，支持本地人爭取「真民主」（genuine democracy）。但什麼是「真」？
I saw Shiella during 1st July protest. Under the orange banner of Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU), sisters’ yellow T-shirts and blue headcloth add colors to the endless Hennessey Road. Progressive Labour Union of Domestic Workers-Hong Kong (PLU) is an affiliate of FADWU, with MDWs from different nationalities. Shiella comes from Philippines, and she told me PLU has mobilized members to join 1st July protest every year for supporting the locals to fight for genuine democracy. But what is “genuine”?
We started talking about contract working hours. Shiella smiled with toughness, ‘On 20th June, we attended the (Standard Working Hours) Committee’s meeting in LegCo. We really show our disappointment. They again excluded MDWs and even the locals (who earn more than 11,000 a month). There is no protection for those grassroots.’ She said, employers of domestic workers are also workers unless they are very rich, they also need standard working hours.
The Committee replied to sisters’ question, saying that since there were a lot of friendly employers in Hong Kong, it was not necessary to legalize regulation. Shiella reputed, ‘Why there are still violation of contract (or law)?’ I found it quite consistent with governmental logic: to simplify the question into conflicts between employers and MDWs. What Shiella asked, however, was whether the exiting institution allows employers or workers to be “good”. If “good” employers are those who will not let workers overwork, who will do the remaining “household”? What is not household at all? Has our society provided any support to family caretakers? Similarly, if we regard “good” workers as those who overwork without complaining, we are actually allowing exploitation and slavery. In the end, both of them have no choice, and characters are totally irrelevant.
However, the fact is that MDWs are experiencing serious long working hours. PLU’s investigation shows that MDWs work at least 16 hours every day, from 5:30-23:30 or 00:30 for 6 days a week. Some of them even have to work on rest days before going out or after coming home. ‘(It’s so that sometimes) we cannot perform 100% as our employers told us…a machine will get overheated if you operate it for a long time…We are also human beings, like the government (officers). The government need (have) working time, why MDWs don’t?’
Shiella also mentioned universal suffrage, which was frequently discussed among many people. She told me how the election in Philippines was, and how migrant workers voted during election. The end of march passed by FADWU’s street station, sisters and supporters shouted the slogans out: ‘What do we want? Democracy!’ Democracy of grassroots has to be shouted out, echoed and acted upon before work exhausted our last energy, through which the state of unity in diversity of authentic democracy could be shown. It’s never an easy journey.
看多點 More information:
- AMCB就標準工時委員會報告向立法會人力事務委員會提交的聲明Submission to the Panel on Manpower Panel of the Hong Kong Legislative Council on the report of the Standard Working Hours Committee: http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr16-17/english/panels/mp/papers/mp20170620cb2-1678-7-e.pdf
- FADWU外國家務工工時實施方案Standard Working Hours Regulation on domestic work abroad: https://www.facebook.com/HKFADWU/posts/1399666596765901
- 惟工新聞，〈政府宣佈標準工時玩完 合約工時不涵蓋八成僱員 月入逾1.1萬出局〉Workers News on contract hours: http://wknews.org/node/1476