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Street protester Regina says scrap the levy

Beatrice Siu

Monday, August 04, 2008

Pressure on the government to rethink its maid levy waiver policy is mounting, with Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee adding her voice to calls to scrap the tax completely.

The former security chief joined 50 employers of domestic helpers and their children in a rally outside the Central Government Offices yesterday.

Dressed in black and white to express their disappointment, the protesters yesterday chanted slogans and popped green balloons - symbolizing the termination of employment contracts - outside the Legislative Council before moving to the Central Government Offices where they handed in a petition. "The waiver only raised confusion among employers and increased the workload of the Immigration Department," said Ip, who is the chairwoman of Savantas Policy Institute.

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Employers said the advance renewal of contracts was problematic, while those with ongoing contracts and who had paid the full two-year levy of HK$9,600 before the waiver was announced were not covered.

Ip said the levy should be abolished as the reason behind it had changed and it was unfair for employers to pay for the training of workers as young as 15.

Anger has grown since Secretary for Welfare and Labour Matthew Cheung Kin-chung brought forward the two- year suspension of the levy to August 1 and advanced the renewal of contract to stop a wave of terminations.

An employer who has a daughter and a son aged nine and 10 said the waiver would not help the family. "I will stop employing helpers after this contract is over as my children are old enough to take care of themselves. It is so unfair to me," she said, adding she could only save HK$100 after paying the handling fees for renewing the maid's contract in advance.

Chan Kam-fa, who has renewed her maid's contract and paid the first installment of the levy, said the waiver was only teaching households how to make use of legal loopholes.

"We try to be responsible employers but the government teaches us to make use of the loopholes in law. It's ridiculous," Chan said. Meanwhile, about 10 members of Momentum 107 dressed up as employers, helpers and Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam- kuen poured a basket of crabs outside Immigration Tower at Wan Chai in protest over the policy.


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