Staying home and no day off for MDWs will not resolve the problem on 2019-nCoV
‘Why are migrant domestic workers being singled out in response to the novel coronavirus?’ This is the reaction of Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, spokesperson of Asian Migrants Coordinating Body in response to a press statement released by the Labor Department yesterday. To quote, ‘The Labour Department yesterday appealed to foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) to stay home during their rest days in order to safeguard their personal health and to reduce the risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus in the community.’
就勞工處於一月三十日發出的新聞公告當中所提到的「勞工處今日（一月三十日）呼籲外籍家庭傭工（外傭）在其休息日留在家中，以保障個人健康並減低新型冠狀病毒在社區傳播的風險。」，亞洲移住人士聯盟的發言人 Dolores Balladares-Pelaez回應說「為甚麼回應新型冠狀病毒疫情，移工會被單獨特別地點名？」。
‘Asian Migrants Coordinating Body finds it unacceptable. It is unfair, unjust, and discriminatory. If the government is asking the MDWs to stay home but the rest of household members can go out, it does not make sense because there is still a possibility for those able to go outside to be infected by the virus. There is the case of the Filipina domestic worker who is in quarantine at the moment because of her employers’ relatives from Wuhan who are infected, and stayed with them.’ Balladares-Pelaez recounted.
Balladares-Pelaez also explained that under the employment ordinance, it is a criminal offence for employers to prohibit MDWs to take their day off. The LD actually advises employers to commit the said offense.
‘It is also counterproductive because having no rest day means having no rest at all. For MDWs who work 6 days a week and 12-16 hours a day, it will cause MDWs high levels of stress and exhaustion, making them vulnerable to sickness. It is also contradictory to the announcement What you and your FDWs need to know to prevent the influenza pandemic released by Centre for Health Protection on No. 3: ‘Unless otherwise directed by the government, allow your helper to take statutory holidays and rest days as usual and advise him/her to avoid visiting crowded or poorly ventilated places during peak season of influenza.’ Balladares-Pelaez explained.
‘What the LD should be focused on is giving MDWs and other employees proper information we can use in our work. LD should ensure that employers provide needed materials, such as mask, vitamin C, enough rest, and that appropriate precautions are taken, such as avoiding places prone to the virus – China, market, etc. And if unable, the LD (and HK authorities) should provide whatever the HK people (MDWs, etc) need in order to prevent getting sick. If we do get sick, it should be ensured that we are accorded the same medical treatment as other HK people.’ Balladares-Pelaez insisted.
‘This is not the first time migrant domestic workers dealt with an epidemic. Remember SARS in 2003? We were here, yet we survived’, added Balladares-Pelaez. ‘Migrants still had their days off then and mingled with fellow MDWs and other friends, and organized activities. While we understand the importance of taking the novel coronavirus seriously, it should not be detrimental to the rights of migrant domestic workers. MDWs and ethnic minorities are part of Hong Kong workforce and community. Our health is important to ensure the health of employers and society.