Uphold rights and welfare of all:
Do not single out Foreign Domestic Workers in “stay home on rest day” call
The International Migrants Alliance – Hong Kong and Macau Chapter (IMA-HKM) calls on the Hong Kong Government to withdraw the announcement made by the Hong Kong Labour Department appealing to foreign domestic workers “to stay home on their rest day to safeguard their personal health and to reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus in the community.” Unless the government is telling everyone to remain at home, there is no need to single-out foreign domestic workers (FDWs). It is unfair, unjust and discriminatory.
For the IMA, such a statement from the Hong Kong government is insulting and dangerous because it sends a strong but wrong signal to the Hong Kong public that FDWs are careless about their personal health and have no regard for the health of their employers and their families.
Since the announcement, the IMA, through its member organizations in Hong Kong and Macau, has received reports from FDWs that:
Last Sunday, February 2, many employers have denied FDWs of their rest day, some were even threatened with contract termination should the latter insist to go out to take their rest day;
Some FDWs were required by their employers to immediately take a bath, hand-wash their cloths and use alcohol all over their bodies for sanitation immediately after they arrived in the house from taking their rest day;
Some FDWs were required to clean the house more often as part of extra hygiene measures making FDWs more exposed to harmful chemical cleaning agents;
Because their employers did not provide, some FDWs were forced to buy protective materials such as face masks, alcohol or hand sanitisers, anti-bacterial handwash, and Vitamin C for their own use, resulting to financial burden due to these materials’ extremely high cost.
To add to these problems, the travel ban to Hong Kong imposed by the Philippines government has caused Filipino domestic workers who are currently in vacation to be stranded. They express fear of job loss should their employers decide to terminate their contract if the FDWs could not return to Hong Kong soon.
Time and again, FDWs have proven that they are responsible, mature and caring members of the Hong Kong society. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, FDWs still managed to go out during their days off observing precautionary measures such as wearing facemasks and avoiding crowded areas. Even during this time, many FDWs who go out on their days off would spend time purchasing face masks and alcohol for their personal use. Many of the organisations have already cancelled activities too in line with the government’s call to avoid converging in large crowds. We in the migrant community are aware of the seriousness of the problem and are observing responsible steps.
We believe that the FDWs and their employers are looking after one another’s health and safety during these dire times.
Instead of promoting steps that will further violate our rights, The Labour Department and the HKSAR government should ensure that FDWs are accorded with the same level of protection with the rest of the population.
Thus, the IMA-HKM calls on the Hong Kong government to:
Immediately withdraw the discriminatory advisory of the Labour Department singling out FDWs and unfairly suggesting that they “stay at home” on their rest day;
Issue an advisory for employers reminding them to provide their domestic workers with free protective materials such as face masks, vitamin C, alcohol-based sanitizing gel or spray;
Remind employers to provide their FDWs with sufficient rest and nutritious food so they will not get sick;
Ensure that advisories and public information regarding 2019-nCoV are made available in different languages for the benefit of everyone including ethnic minority communities;
Ensure adequate supply of face masks, alcohol and hand sanitisers, and vitamin C to Hong Kong households including their domestic workers; and
Create special hotline (messaging and voice call) for FDWs and other ethnic minorities for their inquiries, request for assistance and filing of complaints.
To Consulates of migrant-sending countries:
For the Philippine government to exempt migrant workers, residents and students enrolled in Hong Kong’s universities in its travel ban to Hong Kong and Macau; and
To provide free protective materials such as face masks, alcohol-based sanitizing gel or spray, and vitamin C to its nationals in Hong Kong specially the FDWs.
Video of the International Migrants Alliance press conference on response to the Labour Department’s announcement
International Migrants Alliance (國際移民聯盟):
Jaringan Buruh Migran Indonesia (印尼移工網絡)