是勞工 不是奴隸 ....

今日落完區趕去支持最低工資集會,已經遲到,並已剛剛否決了最低工資要包括家務工..

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對住一堆片,腦袋忽而空白,就只將想不到怎樣剪,又覺得該講的就放上來了...

(2010年7月15日)

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在最低工資包括家務工被否決過後,

大概有不少人還猶豫,認為外傭也有最低工資的話,

假設係一天工作10小時,外傭的工資= $33 x 10hr x 26 = $8,580,

很多僱主不會再聘請外傭,所以否決是很合理的云云。

但根本,外傭團體一直爭取的,是在計算工資水平時扣除外傭的家用開支,

根據政府的統計的開支數字及外傭團體提供給政府的樣本計算方式,計算出來的月薪只是大約4,800元。

更重要的是:

「外傭也是工人,沒有人可以否認。外傭做的家務勞動,其實如其他香港本地工人一樣,對香港有著貢獻。

若外傭被排斥於最低工資立法以外,那麼他們不是工人嗎?難道是奴隸?奴隸制度已於文明世界被廢除,香港沒有理由可以容忍這種制度被保留。」

下面把外傭團體Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB)

在上年開始討論最低工資立法時已發表的Q&A英文版及中文版貼出來,

讓大家再深入了解一下外傭納入最低工資的理據。

雖然昨晚的立法會審議否決了外傭納入最低工資,

但正如外傭團體昨晚所言,必然仍會堅持到底。

其實每年的勞工行動,總有為數不少的外傭站出來,

願大家日後也和外傭團體走在一起,共同奪回作為勞動者應有的勞動果實!

(2010年7月16日)

有什麼可怕?

「最低工資立法」將外傭納入保障範圍,對任何人都有好處!

根本的問題在於應否將外傭被納入最低工資保障範圍。

從傳媒及所謂「政府資料來源」所反映的意見,將外傭納入最低工資保障範圍,像是會帶來世界末日。當中提到這會導致外傭工資升至9,00012,000元,這簡直是荒謬的說法!

這講法並不是事實,預測最低工資會大幅提高外傭工資是誤導,並且扭曲了外傭的意願。其目的只在引起大眾市民對將外傭納入最低工資保障範圍的恐慌而已。但有些事實是需要作出澄清的:

  1. 為何外傭想被納入最低工資保障範圍?保障什麼?

當然是要保障工資。這是關係到每個工人及其家人的生計問題,當工資受到威脅時,工人理所當然應該捍衛的。現時工資亦被視作工作的價值,反映一個人的工作在社會的經濟活動中如何受到重視。

外傭現時的「規定最低工資」(MAW)其實是行政會議的行政安排,通過這個機制,工資的水平經常可以被隨意調整。每年當政府檢討外傭現時的「最低工資」水平時,外傭們都深怕工資水平會被降低。因此,外傭期望能被納入保障範圍。簡單來說,MAW的操作是不需問責、不透明及含糊的。

若外傭能被納入最低工資保障範圍,他們便可以某程度上參與制定工資的水平:包括在制定工資水平時參與公眾咨詢、游說立法會議員、研究…等等,讓人去參與決定與自己切身生活利益攸關的事,不是一件合理的事嗎?

2. 最低工資立法為何要包括外傭在內?

外傭也是工人。沒有人可以否認,外傭做的家務勞動,其實如其他香港本地工人一樣,對香港有著貢獻。

若外傭被排斥於最低工資立法以外,那麼他們不是工人嗎?難道是奴隸?奴隸制度最已於文明世界被廢除,香港沒有理由可以容忍這種制度被保留。

外地傭工不是政府提供的社會福利,或是BOSSINIGIORDANO那些連鎖店的特價品,我們作為工人及人類的尊嚴亦應受到尊重,而不是被貶低至讓人可以「負擔得起」的價錢來購買。

3. 若把外傭也包括在內,若導致外傭工資的提高,豈不是反過來害了雖然身為外傭僱主但其實也是基層工人的市民?

不會。我們明白工人中特別是收入較低的對金融海嘯帶來的影響感到非常憂慮,這其實也是我們的憂慮。外傭納入最低工資保障範圍必然帶來工資的提高,這說法並無根據,這是需要經過立法的程序,並不必然提高外傭工資水平。

如通過其他法例、政策一樣,立法會在通過有關最低工資法例時是經過深思熟慮的,相關的人士:外傭、外傭僱主等的意見都會經過考慮,才會制定有關的法例內容。工資水平可以提高、下降、凍結,沒有人可預計會出現怎樣的經濟環境,對工資水平造成怎樣的影響。

就連勞工處官員在最近與外傭團體會面時,也表示,最低工資的水平是根據「一籃子」的指標來制定的,因此當經濟環境好時,水平應會提高,當經濟不穩定時,便會凍結,或出現更差的情況時會降低。

這也是政府操作「規定最低工資」(MAW)的同一態度,因此,外傭是否納入最低工資保障範圍內,同樣情況一樣會出現。

4.外傭現時已經享有「規定最低工資」(MAW),為何仍要立法最低工資?透過MAW不是也可以提高工資?

我們並不相信MAW是可以有效及公平地制定我們的工資水平。MAW存在著基本的缺陷:它是如前所述,不需問責、不透明及含糊的。

外傭的「規定最低工資」水平雖然曾經有所提高,但提高並不能歸因於這個機制本身。事實上自19992008年間,外傭「規定最低工資」曾經歷兩次大幅調低,現時外傭工資仍未回復1998年的水平。

5 .外傭「規定最低工資」(MAW)如何不需問責及含糊?

MAW的制定只是行政會議的「閉門造車」的產物,由於是行政安排,其決定的合法性根本不能被質疑政府也不會交待有關的決定是怎樣達成的。政府所謂的「一籃子」的指標絕不清晰,亦是經常改變,最糟的是,外僱「規定最低工資」(MAW)的覆檢用的指標的準則是甚麼,外傭都在覆檢結果已成定局後才得知。還要是他們肯解釋的時候。

6. 外傭「規定最低工資」(MAW)如何不透明?

外傭團體連政府何時進行檢討都不知道,他們只能預計政府何時進行檢討而提交建議,但政府如何處理這些建議就不得再知。

總的來說並無強制的機制,讓政府聽取外傭意見後才去制定外傭「規定最低工資」(MAW),政府是否與外傭會面,還要視乎遊說的力量有多強。

7. 外傭團體提出有關MAW的建議不是也包含工資水平的計算方法嗎?

勞僱會在反對外傭被納入最低工資保障範圍時,正是用外傭工資水平無法計算作為理由。其實在外傭團體提的建議中,正正包含了工資水平計算方法,這是勞僱會可資應用的。因此問題似乎不在可否計算,而有關人士是否有決心尋找合理的計算方法。既然他們有辦法計算MAW,為甚麼不可計算外傭的最低工資? 只要有意願,就會有辦法。

8. 新聞報導說,若將外傭納入最低工資保障範圍,他們的工資將提高至12,000元,是真的嗎?

這種說法其實是一種歇斯底理的表現。作為家居傭工,我們已清楚表達了,願意在計算最低工資時,以月薪方式計算,並在計算工資水平時扣除我們的家用開支,這開支的計算是根據政府的統計記錄的。根據我們提供給政府的樣本計算方式,計算出來的月薪只是大約4,800元。再說一次,這只是個樣本。

但是,納入與否仍是重要問題。所以,朋友們,讓我們保持焦點集中。

9. 也有意見認為,如果外傭也受立法最低工資保障,本地僱主便不會再聘用外傭,這是否真確

我們認為這個情況不會發生。這是基於一個假設:「最低工資立法」必然導致工資的提高!但即使有工資的提高也不會導致大量的外傭被遣散。根據政府的統計資料,超過70%的外傭僱主月入超過20,000元,在這樣的情況下,僱主難道就會為了50元(過去三年來的外傭工資升幅),或者就算是100元,便要把外傭趕走。這是由於家務工作本身就是一份全職工作,沒有人會為了幾百元而放棄全職工作,或一半的家庭收入。

外傭的價值在於家庭創造收入的能力,她們將家庭成員從家務工作中釋放出來,為家人賺取額外收入,外傭僱主會為了不足以購買一張迪士尼門券的金錢,而不去聘用外傭?

10. 將會立法「最低工資」是以時薪計算的,這計算方式適用於外傭嗎?

是不適用的。由於外傭是「留宿傭工」,期望外傭最低工資以「時薪」計算是不切實際的,我們和其他工人有著不同處境。因此,在我們的建議中我們是主張計算外傭最低工資時,是以「月薪」為計算基礎的,但問題是反對外傭納入最低工資的人竟以我們「留宿」一個我們沒有選擇權去決定的情況作為理由。

有些人認為外傭作為「家務傭工」,他們不是為僱主「連續」地工作,也就是僱主不能保證他們每分鐘都在工作。但既然是「家務傭工」,由清潔庶務,到管理家居都是他們的工作範圍,就算是「看屋」本身也是工作(譯者按:這與保安員有著共同處)。

不過,要強調的是「工時」並不是現最迫切的議題,雖然這也是我們非常關心的。

11. 外傭說不納入最低工資是歧視,但不以時薪計算,而以月薪計算最低工資,不也是歧視嗎?

這不是歧視。工人在同一處境下,遭到不同的對待是歧視,但「留宿外傭」與一般的工人有著不同的處境,自然用不同的計算方式。反而,將外傭排斥於最低工資立法以外,不當他們是工人的一份子才清楚是歧視的行為!

我們感到非常困擾的是政府忽然覺得用月薪去計算最低工資感到為難,我們無法不估計這只是政府的藉口。打從第一天我們來到香港工作開始,工資便是以月薪的形式計算,我們的合約清楚寫著我們的工資是月薪,就是我們到勞資審裁處追討欠薪時,都是以月薪來計算,為何現在用月薪計算最低工資就是歧視。

我們知道政府最害怕有人就外傭被排斥於最低工資立法之外提出司法覆核,但若它堅這種歧視性的做法,司法覆核便難以避免。若外傭納入最低工資保障,政府面對司法機會很微,因為根本沒有明顯的理據這樣做。

12. 你們怎樣看有人說:「若外傭不滿香港的工資,他們大可到別的地方去!」

也有人說若外傭對香港工作環境不滿,大可到別的地方去!這種傲慢的態度無助於我們了解外傭對香港社會的重要,及外傭自身的真象。事實上香港有超過25萬的外傭,證明香港需要這類型的工人,外傭的存在讓家庭成員從家務工作中釋放出來,爭取工作和賺取收入的機會,因此彼此是互相依賴的。

另外,只有那些從不面對「生存」問題的人,才會說外傭可以選擇。外傭為生存而要在較差的條件下工作,不表示他們什麼都應該逆來順受。

13. 外傭似乎有很多要求,但相對於其他國家,香港對待外傭已經是比較不錯的了!

老實說,香港對待外傭並不算是比較好。有些國家對待外傭比香港差,但不那麼差也是差!政府的政策(例如超過二十年的「兩星期的離港規定」)這逼使我們面對眾多剝削才能保住工作,如非法扣薪、惡劣居住環境、被迫非法工作、負債,這些我們往往都要默默承受,因我們極害怕會失掉工作而只能空手回到祖國。

在香港人面對危機時,我們不一樣也要承受這些不幸嗎?1999年,我們的工資被減去590元,到現在還未得到補償。

政府要把我們與外國比較,說英國、南韓都不把外傭被納入最低工資保障範圍,但又隻字不提法國、澳洲、加拿大的安大略省,將外傭也納入最低工資保障,明顯是選擇性的比較。

14. 是不是只要納入最低工資保障範圍,外傭便會滿意?

當然不是。正如本地工人的處境一樣,最低工資立法並不是所面對的眾多問題的終極解決方法,我們仍需不斷努力,讓我們的工作條件達致國際水平。

15. 為何本地工人也要關注外傭被納入最低工資保障範圍這個問題?


因為我們和本地工人一樣也是工人!我們一起建設香港。

如果我們都被包括在最低工資保障範圍內,在制定有關法例內容時,我們便可互相支援,一方的權益受到威脅時,便可得到另一方的支持。工人的命運最終是掌握在工人手上!

總的來說,香港作為國際城市,工人的待遇應達到國公約的要求,尊重公義平等,尊重人權。

外傭被納入最低工資保障範圍是對的,對各方面都有利,讓我們共同努力!

(16) 那麼國際勞工組織又對本地工人及外傭的薪金又怎樣說?

國際勞工組織(ILO)1949年大會 第97號外傭僱傭公約(修訂本) The 1949 International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 97 Migration for Employment Convention (Revised)很清楚:

6

6.(1) 這公約的每一名成員會有效地實行,在不存在國藉、種族、宗教或性別的歧視下,對該區域的合法入境者,提供相較於其國民在以下事情不會較差的待遇:

a) 只要相關事情受法律或條例所監管,或受行政機關所控制

I 酬金,包括組成酬金部份的家庭津貼、工作工時、超時工作安排、假期薪金、在家工作的限制、最低年齡僱傭限制、學徒訓練、女性工作及青少年工作;

香港會否背棄此承諾?

17. 所以外僱納入最低工資保障是最好?

支持外傭納入最低工資可表現本地居民對香港被忽視的一群的同情。外傭感激己表態支持外傭納入最低工資的工會、本地團體及市民。但當然,還有很多工作要做。

如果香港以亞洲國際都市自居,她真的應該推揚大眾都期許這世界會有的核心價值對公義有熱誠、尊重人類的尊嚴及願意宣揚甚麼是「正確」。

納入還是不納入,這是重點。

納入! 是既正確、又公正,及對所有人都好的唯一答案。

ASIAN MIGRANTS’ COORDINATING BODY (AMCB)

成員:
Association of Sri Lankans in Hong Kong (ASL-HK)
Asosiasi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia di Hong Kong (ATKI-HK
) (Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers)
Far-East Overseas Nepalese Association – Hong Kong (FEONA-HK)

Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union (FMWU)
Friends of Thai – Hong Kong (FOT-HK)
Thai Regional Alliance (TRA-HK)
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)

二零零九年六月十日

Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB)

A founding member of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) and with members from Indonesia, Nepal,

the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand

c/o APMM, No. 2 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR

Tel no(s): (852) 3156-2447, 2314-7316 Fax no(s): 2735-4559 E-mail: amcb.hk@gmail.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is Nothing to Fear

Why inclusion of FDW to the statutory minimum wage is the best choice for everyone

To include or not to include: that is the question. At least with regards to foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and the statutory minimum wage (SMW).

If we are to read the opinions echoed in various mass media on this matter as well as statements from “government sources”, inclusion of FDWs to the SMW will likely mean the end of the world. Imagine FDWs earning somewhere from HK$9,000 to HK$12,000. Completely ridiculous and absurd!

To clarify, such a claim is untrue. This said prediction of a gigantic leap in FDW wage is a completely misinformed statement and a distortion of what FDWs really want. What it aims to create is an atmosphere of panic and fear directed towards FDWs.

But what is the real score? The Hong Kong public must really know.

  1. Why do FDWs want to be included in the SMW? What’s in it for them?

Wage.

In it lays the everyday survival of workers and that of our family’s. If wage is threatened, any other worker will try his or her best to defend it. Also, wage is the present measure of the worth of one’s work. It reflects how one’s work is valued in the overall economic activity of the society.

Based on these, FDWs call for the inclusion of our wage to the SMW because in the current setup where our wage is determined by the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) policy, it is very vulnerable to instant adjustments. In fact when the time for the MAW review comes – and it is done every year – FDWs always hold their breaths for only those doing the review know where the wind will really blow.

In short, the process of MAW determination is non-accountable, non-transparent and arbitrary.

With the SMW, at a certain extent, there will be a level playing field in the determination of wage that we can also take part in. Unlike now where only the ExCo decides our wages in closed door meetings, the inclusion will give us and our advocates the chance to lobby the LegCo, attend public consultations and discussions in the legislative body and witness deliberations the same way that our employers can.

If one is given an opportunity to become more involved in determining something as important in one’s life as the wage, will you not take such better option?

  1. But SMW is only for local workers. Why include foreign domestic workers?

We too are workers. From our value in households to the general HK society, no one can, and should, deny the part FDWs have played and still are playing in Hong Kong.

If FDWs are excluded from the SMW that is meant to be for ALL workers, doesn’t it mean that we are not considered as workers? If we are not workers, then what are we? Slaves?

But slavery has long been abolished by the civilized world! For sure, people of Hong Kong will never allow themselves to be seen as tolerating a practice that has no place in modern times.

Neither are FDWs a “social welfare” of the government to employers. We are not items in Bossini or Giordano with “ON SALE” tags. Our worth and dignity as workers and as human beings should be acknowledged and should not be cheapened just so others can “afford” us.

  1. But if FDWs are included, will it not automatically result to wage increase that will, in turn, hurt employers some of whom are workers too?

No.

We understand this concern now that those who are not earning much are gripped with worry considering the global crisis. We too are worried.

But actually, the fear of a wage increase because of the inclusion is unfounded and even malicious. Inclusion does not automatically mean an upward adjustment of the wage of FDWs. It will still go through the legislative process.

Like any policy, the LegCo will deliberate on any proposed changes to the SMW. It will call for submissions and hear the take of the affected sectors – FDWs, employers and even the government – before taking any decision.

Wages can then increase, decrease or even be frozen. There is no telling what the actual economic and political developments will take place in HK in the future that will impact on the SMW.

Even the Labor Department, in a recent dialogue with FDW groups said that any wage adjustment is based on a “basket of indicators”. So if the economy is good, wage for ALL will likely be proposed to go up. If it is experiencing instability, it will likely be frozen or even worse, reduced.

This was what they used with the MAW as well. So whether or not FDW wage is included in the SMW or remains with the MAW, adjustments will still be made based on criteria set.

  1. If you say that wages can be determined by the MAW, why still push for inclusion in SMW? Why not stick to MAW if it has been effective and has generally even caused wage increases for FDWs?

We do not believe that the MAW is an effective and fair process to determine our wage. As a process, the MAW has very basic problems.

It is just so non-accountable, non-transparent and arbitrary.

While there have been increases in the MAW, it cannot be attributed to the process itself. While we are at the topic of wage adjustments, it should also be noted that decreases under the MAW have been even more severe in terms of impact. In fact, from 1999 to 2009, the two wage cuts implemented are so drastic that even if there have been wage increases, the wage of FDWs still have not been returned back to the 1998 level.

  1. Why is the MAW non-accountable and arbitrary?

MAW is decided only by the Executive Council in a closed door review. Because it is administrative, the legality of the decision on the MAW cannot even be challenged. Thus, the government cannot even be compelled to justify its decision for the wage adjustments it will do to the MAW.

Government’s ‘basket of indicators’ is also not clear in the process. It changes all the time and what is worse is that FDWs only get an idea of what criteria were used in the MAW review only AFTER the decision has been taken. That is, if they even bother to explain themselves.

  1. Why is the MAW non-transparent?

FDWs are not even informed when it will be reviewed. All the time, FDWs have to approximate the period of its review and prepare submissions. While the government accepts submissions, it is not clear what they actually do with it.

With the MAW, there really is no opportunity for all affected sectors to be involved in the process. Initiatives of the government to include participation of FDWs like dialogues are not mandatory and depend largely on how strong the lobbying effort is.

  1. But didn’t your submission include a computation where the wage of FDWs increased?

Step back for a while and recall: the first time the Labour Advisory Board said that they are not recommending the inclusion of FDWs to the SMW, the reason they used was that it is impossible to do so.

The computation in the submission was done just so the LAB will know that it is actually possible if they just put their minds into it. If they can compute the MAW, why can’t they compute an SMW for FDWs? If there is a will, there can really be a way.

  1. News reports say that if FDWs are included, their wages will go up to HK$12,000. Is this true?

The hysteric on the wage of FDWs reaching as high as HK$12,000 is nothing more than that, hysteric.

We know that we are in a different condition being live-in employees. As such, we have already expressed our willingness to have our wage computed in a monthly basis – minus the deductions of our contribution to the relevant expenses of the household we are part of, the amount of which is based on official government records and computations.

Thus, our sample computation for the take-home pay of FDWs submitted to the HK government is only about HK$4,800. Again, this is only a sample.

But still, inclusion or not is the real issue now. So folks, let us stay focused.

  1. There is also the fear that local employers will refuse to hire FDWs anymore if they are included. Again, is this true?

We don’t think so. Again, this fear is based on the assumption that inclusion will automatically mean wage increase.

But even assuming that there will be a wage increase, the scenario of mass layoff of FDWs is unlikely.

According to the HK government itself, employers of FDWs earning more than HK$20,000 a month is more than 70% of the total number of FDWs’ employers.

If this is the case, will an increase of HK$50 (the average wage increase for FDW wages in the past three years), or even HK$100 a month really push employers to do away with FDWs? We think not because domestic work is a fulltime job and nobody will willingly give up his/her whole salary or half the family income in exchange for not paying a couple of hundred bucks more to his/her domestic worker.

A value of FDWs in the household is that it increases the economic capacity of the whole household. It allows other members of the family to work for additional income. Will this be sacrificed for the sake of an amount that is not even equivalent to a ticket for Disneyland?

  1. But SMW is set at an hourly rate. Will this not be the same for live-in FDWs?

No it will not.

Considering that most FDWs are live-in employees, it is shooting for the stars to even hope that FDW wage will be computed at an hourly rate. Thus, as we indicated in our submission, we are willing to be included in the SMW but with our wage computed on a monthly basis because live-in FDWs are workers in a different category.

But what really bothers us now is that this “live-in” condition – one that we did not choose to be in – is now being used against our inclusion to the SMW.

Still, some will definitely argue that FDWs do not really work continuously. They will say that employers cannot really monitor the every minute activity of FDWs.

But is not domestic work broadly defined as “taking care of the household”? If so, it constitutes tasks from manning and securing the house to cleaning, cooking, etc. This means that even if an FDW is just standing by the door very still, she is actually working by guarding the whole house!

But again, the hours of work is not the issue at hand now though it still remains as a big concern for FDWs.

  1. FDWs say that non-inclusion is discriminatory. But is not inclusion with a monthly computation for FDWs, as proposed, also discriminatory?

No it is not.

Discrimination happens when one or some in a particular category is treated differently. Live-in FDWs are in a different category of work so the particular computation will surely not be totally the same as others.

But the basic minimum is that FDWs are also workers. As such, the more evident discrimination will be the non-inclusion of FDWs because SMW is supposed to be for ALL workers in Hong Kong.

We are very disturbed why suddenly the government is so concerned about the computation of our wage on a monthly basis. We cannot help but think that it is just being used as an easy way out for our exclusion.

Since FDWs started working in Hong Kong, our wage has been computed on a monthly basis. Even our standard employment contract carries this. Even the Labour Tribunal in cases of wage disputes computes ours in a monthly basis.

Why is it suddenly so hard to do now? What is the big deal? To be crude about it, it is a little hypocritical to be concerned now about monthly wage for FDWs being discriminatory.

The government is also deathly afraid of the prospect of a judicial review on this matter. Exclusion of FDWs in the SMW is very obviously discriminatory so, most assuredly, this option will face a judicial review. With inclusion, the possibility of a review is remote because there is no obvious ground for one.

  1. If FDWs do not like the wages here, they can just find work elsewhere.” What do you say?

There is also this dismissive attitude of some that if FDWs do not like the condition of work in HK, then they can very well seek jobs in other countries. Take it or leave it.

Such arrogance does not really reflect the reality of the importance of FDWs to the HK society and the reality of the FDWs themselves.

The fact that more than 250,000 FDWs work in HK means that there is really a demand for such category of workers. The presence of FDWs liberates members of the households from performing the house chores thereby making them available for other types of work and income. It is not a relationship where one can do away with another.

Secondly, those who say that FDWs have a “choice” are those who have not really been confronted with the question of survival. FDWs work to survive which is a necessity and never a choice. While this condition forces us to contend with less admirable working situation, it does not mean that we just have to accept everything hurled against us.

  1. It appears that those calling for FDW inclusion to SMW are saying that HK needs to do more about the condition of FDWs here. But compared to other countries, FDWs in Hong Kong are already treated better. Why still say otherwise?

If truth is to be told, FDWs in HK are not really in a better position than those elsewhere.

While some say HK treats FDWs better compared to countries notorious for subhuman treatment, it does not mean that FDWs in HK are already in good condition. A lesser evil is still evil.

Take the New Conditions of Stay or Two-Week Rule. For more than two decades, the NCS has ruled the working and living condition of FDWs. It has forced us to face many abuses so that we can hold on to our jobs. Illegal salary deductions, poor living condition, forced illegal work, indebtedness – these and more are what we had to bear for fear of losing employment and going back to our country empty-handed.

Aside from this, didn’t we also suffer as many others in Hong Kong during periods of crisis? Since 1999, we lost HK$590 from our monthly wage and up to now, it has not yet recovered.

FDW situation in HK is definitely not better. It may not even be close to good enough.

While we are on the topic on comparison with other countries, it is also unfair for the government to highlight United Kingdom and South Korea that do not include FDWs in the SMW. Curiously enough, the government does not bother to explain to the public how France, Australia and Ontario, Canada included FDWs in SMW and made it workable. Isn’t this too selective?

  1. FDWs seem to be plagued by many issues and concerns. Does it mean that with the inclusion, these will also be addressed?

Definitely not.

There are still many things to be done to have the condition of FDWs even approach what international standards provide for workers. As with the local workers in Hong Kong, the SMW is not the ultimate answer to problems workers face.

Inclusion is just one advocacy that may at least lighten the load we are carrying. Let’s call it a baby step towards a better treatment of FDWs.

  1. Local workers have their own problems. Why should the cause of inclusion of FDWs to the SMW be also one of them?

Because we too are workers and FDWs are part of those who built HK and continues to take part in its economic development.

Local people have nothing to lose and everything to gain by the inclusion. Our unity as workers will also be strengthened as we campaign together for SMW for ALL. When it gets implemented, it will be like a domino where any adjustment to the wage of one will mean an impact to the wage of another. The fate of our wage will be in our – the workers’ – hands.

Also, it will show that Hong Kong people indeed promote non-discrimination, follow the standard on setting wage by the ILO that the HK government also signed, and respect the rights of workers – be they are local or foreign.

  1. What does the International Labour organization say about wages for local and migrants?

The 1949 International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 97 Migration for Employment Convention (Revised) is clear:

Article 6

6. (1) 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 in respect of the following matters:

a) in so far as such matters are regulated by law or regulations, or are subject to the control of administrative authorities-

I. (remuneration, including family allowances where these form part of remuneration, hours of work, overtime arrangements, holidays with pay, restrictions on home work, minimum age for employment, apprenticeship and training, women’s work and the work of young persons;

Will Hong Kong renege on this commitment?

  1. So inclusion is best?

Supporting the inclusion of FDWs to the SMW will show the compassion of the locals for one of the neglected section of HK society. FDWs are very appreciative of trade unions and other local groups and individuals who have already declared support for the inclusion of FDWs to the SMW. But of course, more work should be done.

If HK is to stand by its name of Asia’s World City, then it really has to promote the values that all people wants the world to be ruled with – passion for justice, respect for human dignity, and promotion of what is right.

To include or not to include: that is the question.

To include! That is the only answer which is right, just, and beneficial for all.

10 June 2009

Hong Kong SAR

ASIAN MIGRANTS’ COORDINATING BODY (AMCB)

Members:
Association of Sri Lankans in Hong Kong (ASL-HK)
Asosiasi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia di Hong Kong (ATKI-HK
) (Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers)
Far-East Overseas Nepalese Association – Hong Kong (FEONA-HK)

Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union (FMWU)
Friends of Thai – Hong Kong (FOT-HK)
Thai Regional Alliance (TRA-HK)
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)

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