Over a thousand migrant workers protest for standard working hours

31/12/2015 - 2:58pm

Number of views


click here for chinese version/中文版按此 
(Bahasa Indonesia version will be delivered later)

Working for 15 hours a day in average
No improvement for ten years
Over a thousand migrant workers protest for standard working hours

" For the Hong Kong government, it is business as usual when it comes to treatment of FDWs – that we remain cheap, insecure and indisposable labor of Hong Kong." said in the statement by Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB), who initiated the protest yesterday.

To celebrate International Migrants Day on December 18, over a thousand migrant workers in Hong Kong, coming from Indonesia, the Philippines, Nepal etc., paraded from Causeway Bay to the headquarter of government yesterday afternoon.

Protesters put forward different claims — workers' right to decide whether living with the employers, regulation of agencies, direct hiring without going through agencies. In addition, migrant workers also made a new demand: include migrant workers into standard working hours legislation.

(Initiating group ask for the end of slavery system and social exclusion)

(Overseas Nepal Workers Association ask for regulation of agencies)

Working for 15 hours a day in average  No improvement for ten years

Migrant domestic workers worked up to 12, 16 or even 20 hours a day, Eni from International Migrant Alliance (IMA) said. In fact, over the years, different groups have conducted surveys about migrant domestic workers' working hours. Results showed migrants' situation was so bad.

In 2005, a joint investigation by Association for Indonesian Migrant Workers (ATKI) and Asian Migrant Centre (AMC) found that , among 2,777 respondents, 57% of them were in the face of long-working hours. In 2006, the survey of AMC also found that, among 2,097 Indonesian migrant workers, 53% of them worked more than 15 hours daily.

(Groups believe globalization of neo-liberalism is one of the culprits of the slavery system)

Until 2011, Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos of Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs, interviewed 239 Indonesian domestic workers, 50.5% of respondents said they worked for 16 hours or more every day, most of them, which was 23.9% in total, worked for 16 hours a day. Statistical analysis showed respondents worked for 14.97 hours daily in average.

During 2012-2013, Amnesty International conducted in-depth interviews with 97 Indonesian migrant workers, the final report stated that the respondents worked 17 hours a day in average, but most of them had to be on standby 24-hour. Mission For Migrant Workers (MFMW) released case report in 2015, noted that last year, there were more than 4,000 migrant domestic workers reaching them, "82% of client reflected they worked more than 11 hours a day. While 46% of them referred they worked up to 16 hours daily. "

Never invited during consultation of standard working hours

"We are not a part of our society"

Although different groups continued to expose domestic workers' long working hours, they were all excluded from the protection of legislation of standard working hours. AMCB criticized the Hong Kong government did not even once invite migrant workers groups in their consultation, understand their views.

Housework is tedious and sustained. As long as the workers live in their employers' homes, they are often on standby. It is difficult to have sufficient rest. AMCB described, migrant domestic workers began work early every day. They had to prepare from breakfast to late-night dinner for employers and their families, rest were often interrupted. Some migrant domestic workers were not entitled to statutory rest days and holidays. Some of them were even placed under curfews and worked after go back home in the rest day.

Migrant domestic worker union organizers believe that Hong Kong's attitudinal and systemic discrimination of migrant domestic workers has to do with the fact that they are immigrant and non-status workers: “Their(Hong Kong Government) belief, its departments and allies thought that we are not ordinarily residents in HK, we are not part of this society and therefore MDWs have no entitlement to its services and laws.” Organizers further comment that the Hong Kong government expresses little to no interest in considering migrang domestic workers in policy discussions” Organizers further comment that the Hong Kong government expresses little to no interest in considering migrant domestic workers in policy discussions, “Are we set to suffer the same exclusion we experienced when the Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) was being put in place?”

For migrant workers, it is not rare to experience racist and classist exclusion. Real life implications of these widely accepted exclusions are a lack of access to public spaces and services, and marginalization and non-existence when it comes to arrangements made by capital or the state. Neither can migrant domestic workers necessarily rely on working-class solidarity when it comes to worker protections and benefits.        

Local Organizers Speak Out against Social Exclusion of MDWs, Asserts That Employers and Workers Should Fight for a Standard 8-Hour Work Day Together

For Standard Working Hours legislation, many local organizations and organizers also came out to support the demonstration. The League of Social Democrats carried a banner exclaiming that “Human Rights does not discriminate by race or class; Standard Working Hours is for everyone”. LSD's Ma Jai remembers that 4 or 5 years ago, when minimum wage was to be mandated, migrant domestic workers were excluded from any legal protection the new piece of legislation would afford to workers. LSD feels that this is entirely unacceptable, and reasserts that migrant workers should also enjoy the same protections as local workers -- and that the same principle should apply for legislating for the 8-hour work day.

(The League of Social Democrats say: “Human Rights does not discriminate by race or class; Standard Working Hours is for everyone”)

Left 21 also came out to support the motion to legally standardize the 8-hour work day for local and migrant workers alike. The organization's spokesperson, Run Chan, pointed out that “We are also a part of the 99%, also working-class, so we should support each other like we mean it.” Run feels that people in Hong Kong should really try to put themselves in the shoes of migrant workers, and speak out against divisiveness when it comes to the issue of Standard Working Hours protection. If someone challenged, Run suggests saying to naysayers: “You try living in your boss's home 24-7 - with three meals included and a $4000 something per month salary – and let me know if you think it's okay!”

(local organization left21 support local and migrant workers to have standard working hour and balance life) 

Employers of migrant domestic workers and workers do not necessarily have to have an adversarial relationship; oftentimes, their fates are tied. At present, employers are required to have a reported minimum monthly income of $15,000 if they wish to employ a migrant domestic worker. This requirement has not been changed for many years, and many MDW employers cannot in actuality be considered wealthy or a part of the ruling class.

Autonomous 8's Fei thinks that for many migrant domestic workers, the length of their work days are both dictated by and revolves around the employer and their regular work day. “Many employers are actually working-class, they also have work days that stretch beyond 8 hours. I often hear that employers get off work very late. When the employer arrive home it is often already ten or twelve at night. And yet only then can domestic workers start to cook for them, then the worker have to wash the dishes. By the time the worker get to bed, it is already one or two am. They get on average four to five hours sleep, and are required to get up at six or seven am to make breakfast and take the children to school. In these types of real life work and at-home situations, it is clear that the migrant worker's work day is so overextended precisely because the employer's own work day is also so overextended.”  

Fei further says that it is “because the employer's work day is so long, employers often do not get to spend enough time with their families, and neither do overworked employers generally have enough time in the day to dedicate themselves to developing personal interests, not to mention what little time they'd have to rest. Domestic workers are also human, and in very much the same ways, they have the same needs; they also need time to rest, and to relax with friends. They also have dreams, and want the time to be able to dedicate themselves to different pursuits of knowledge and skills, and to make plans for their future. If employers and workers have the same needs, why then can they not struggle together for the standardization of reasonable working hours for all? Why should either keep falling into the cycle of being exploited and exploiting others?”


other news about migrant domestic workers:

“We are Queer, We are Fabulous” The First Migrant Pride Parade in Hong Kong
Writing in the bathroom Interview with Migrant Zine writers
Liberal Party held "Smart tips in employing domestic workers"
Elis died of slave-like life in agency center
Modern Slavery--The Hardship of Hong Kong Domestic Workers