Windows break for Filipino helpers

Top News | Carain Yeung 13 Oct 2016

From Saturday, all new contracts with Filipino domestic workers will state that they will not clean the exterior of windows under a unilateral move by the Philippine secretary for labor and employment.

The move is in response to workers' calls after at least four deaths this year.

The Philippine consulate and labor attache in Hong Kong issued a notice to all accredited employment agencies in the SAR at the beginning of the month to inform employers and businesses on the new condition, after a directive' from the Philippine labor secretary.

The online filing EmployEasy will automatically print the new condition on the contract, which states: "For safety purposes, cleaning the exterior of windows is not part of the domestic helper's duties."

The condition will apply to all contracts submitted independently and by agencies.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Center, said her company received the notice on October 2.

Liu said the impact on current and future employers is unknown as the new term had just been imposed by the Philippine government.

"The SAR's immigration and labor departments have not taken their stance yet," Liu said. "Employers should not worry too much at this stage."

However, she is concerned this will set a precedent, with more conditions to come and more countries doing the same.

Reacting to the condition, an employers' group started a petition online to invite employers to each send Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying an opposition letter.

Support Group for Hong Kong Employers with Foreign Domestic Helpers wrote in the letter: "The foreign domestic helpers will only clean the interior but not the exterior of the window, doing just half of their work. This term is impractical and unreasonable."

The letter also said it is reasonable for employers to be responsible for occupational safety but training should also be strengthened to increase helpers' awareness of safety and techniques.

Shiella Estrada, secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union, said her group welcomes the Philippine government's decision as she said some maids have fallen to death cleaning the exterior of windows.

"The buildings are high-rises and it should be the job of building management," Estrada said. She hopes other countries that send helpers abroad will follow suit.

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