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Monday, February, 5 2007

 

HK maids protest new Philippine labor law

 
Filipino maids took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday in protest at a labor law proposed by the Philippine government that has angered millions of its citizens working abroad.

A throng of mostly female domestic helpers marched through the city to the Philippine consulate to present a petition calling on President Arroyo to scrap the proposal.

If passed, the law will require maids who work overseas to undergo a two or three week “competency training and assessment program” recognized by the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration at a cost of P10,000 to P15,000 ($215 to $320).

Maids in Hong Kong typically earn about $450 a month.

Dolores Balladares, chairman of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB), which has organized the rally, described the proposal as “extortion.”

“They are taking advantage of the overseas workers,” said Balladares.

In a statement the Department of Labor and Employment said it had issued a resolution relaxing the policy so that it would apply only to newly hired maids.

 Labor Secretary Arturo Brion defended the law as part of reforms to give maids better protection amid a number of high-profile cases of abuse against maids, especially in Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

“The reforms that we have been implementing are for the long term and would place the [maids] on a better footing against abuse and exploitation abroad,” he said.

Filipinos make up Hong Kong’s largest immigrant community, with some 120,000 maids working in the city.

While the Manila government says about 1.5 million of its citizens work overseas as domestic helpers, an unofficial tally by the AMCB puts the figure closer to 10 million.

They work mostly in the oil-rich Middle East countries, with Saudi Arabia accounting for the largest number, at around 300,000.

   
 

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Ping Oco, Franklin Bartolay
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