Press Statement : We too are workers and should be included in the SMW Proposal for minimum wage for foreign domestic workers is just and reasonable

The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) wishes to reiterate its position for inclusion of Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) in the statuto...

The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) wishes to reiterate its position for inclusion of Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) in the statutory minimum wage (SMW) based on just principles, internationally-upheld labour standards and reasonable applications of such principles and standards in Hong Kong.

On April 28, AMCB submitted a proposal on SMW for foreign helpers with concrete computation to the Executive Council (ExCo), with a copy furnished to the Labour Department. It was thus mind-boggling to find a news report on May 18 in the HK Standard which cited a government source as saying that FDWs are asking for more than HK$9,000.

This is blatantly false and a misrepresentation of the submission we made.

To summarize our submission, the AMCB believes that FDWs as workers should be included in the SMW. While it is true that the working condition of FDWs - a condition that policies in HK set in the first place - is peculiar, it is neither impossible nor unreasonable to compute an acceptable SMW for FDWs.

AMCB supports the call of local workers for a HK$33 per hour rate of the SMW for all workers including FDWs. Due to the live-in condition of our work, FDWs, our SMW is on a monthly basis and we agree to deduct our monthly living cost based on government's data.

While the reality is that we work from 12 to 16 hours in a day, we can compromise at 10 hours of work per day assuming that FDWs work from breakfast to dinner.

Based on these assumptions: the following was our proposed computation to the ExCo and the Labour Department:

(SMW HK$33 x 10 hours x 365 days)/12 months = $10,038 (Monthly Wage) - $5,188 (Living Cost) = $4,849 (Take home pay)

This, the AMCB believes is a just and reasonable computation.

Exclusion of FDWs to the SMW is very discriminatory. We belong to the lowly-paid workers earning, at present, HK$18 an hour for 16 hours of work a day including the living costs mentioned above. We are also covered by the same Labour Ordinance as the local workers. When the HK government implemented the levy on employers of FDWs, it also put us in the same category as other imported foreign workers.

Why should there be a different standard then on the matter of SMW?

Additionally, Hong Kong was a signatory to the ILO Convention No. 97 Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 which stated that "Each Member for which this Convention is in force undertakes to apply, without discrimination in respect of nationality, race, religion or sex, to immigrants lawfully within its territory, treatment no less favourable than that which it applies to its own nationals ...."

AMCB also believes that the doomsday prediction of massive layoffs is but a way to discourage the local workers and our employers from supporting FDW inclusion to the SMW as well as a way to divide the ranks of the working people in Hong Kong in this crucial issue especially in the midst of the current global financial crunch.

Based on the proposal, FDWs shall receive an additional HK$1,200 in their monthly pay. This is still much, much lower than the potential loss of income of the household if an FDW is terminated and a working member of the household takes on the domestic tasks. Government statistics said that current household income in HK is $30,000 $40,000 and it can be assumed that households can lose half of this if they terminate their FDWs.

Domestic work is valuable work which middle income families cannot do away with. FDWs are important in households and are also valuable members of the HK society.

As with all HK workers, FDWs must also be protected and our rights should be upheld. We are not slaves and we do deserve justice, our labour rights, and our dignity as workers.#

Hongkong, 27 May 2009
For reference: Eni Lestari
Tel. No.: (852) 96081475

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