HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam discriminates & coerces Foreign Domestic Helpers!
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Without first announcing a health policy to contain coronavirus infections on 31 January 2020 Hong Kong (HK) Chief Executive Carrie Lam discriminated against Foreign Domestic Helpers (FDH) when she coerced and commanded them to forgo their weekly day off and instead remain inside their employer's home. Under UNCAT this amounts to torture!
The first public statement made by the Hong Kong Government requesting "social distancing" of HKers was on 8 February 2020. RTHK reported "Hong Kong government on Saturday appealed to the public to stay at home as far as possible and reduce social contacts in an effort to prevent larger outbreak of the coronavirus in the city."
Obviously the HK Government's public annoucement on health policies have to be aligned with HK's UN obligations including World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations "to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks."
First comes the policy (e.g. social distancing) and then the programs and action (e.g. no gatherings, stay at home, etc.).
In this case Carrie Lam, whilst coercing and commanding, put the cart before the horse when she introduced programs and action first and only later her administration announced the policy!
Once again, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivered too little - too late!
Having already spoken in public to the Employees (Foreign Domestic Helpers) the Chief Executive MUST now, in public, remind Employer(s) and their families to act towards their Employee(s) in a manner that supports their human rights including rights for health and safety in their working place!
Lam: Appeal to FDH to stay at home during rest day part of ‘social distancing,’ not meant to discriminate
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended the appeal made by the Labour Department for foreign domestic helpers (FDH) to stay at home during their rest day, saying it’s part of a strategy for “social distancing” or minimizing social contact to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV-ARD) in the city, where cases of infection have risen to 12.
In a press conference on Jan.31, Lam said the Labour Department made the said announcement with the objective to protect public health.
While she admitted that she has not yet seen the statement from the Labour Department, she believed that it was made to reduce the risk of 2019-nCoV ARD infection, as the said virus can be transmitted between humans.
“I suppose that advice was merely given to protect our foreign domestic helpers by suggesting that they should stay at home, that was part of a strategy to reduce as much as possible social contact or what we call “social distancing,” Lam said.
She also raised the shortage of face masks as a factor, as foreign domestic helpers – which are made up mostly of Filipinos and Indonesians – will need to wear them in order to protect themselves when they go out, and it may be difficult to get them given the current low supply.
“That also takes into account the current limited supply of face masks, because if they all go out and they enjoy the day as we have seen from time to time on Sundays in various parts of Hong Kong, they are in no doubt in a crowd, which means that they will have to wear masks and protect themselves,” she said.
She said the advice from the Labour Department also echoes the government’s move to cancel events.
The Labour Department earlier asked foreign domestic helpers to stay at home during their rest day “as far as possible” and also asked employers to “explain the special circumstances in discussing rest day arrangements with their FDHs.”
The government agency said they made the call after Lam declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak as an “emergency,” on Jan.25. The illness, marked by coughing, fever and shortness of breath has since infected at least 12 people in Hong Kong and over 7,000 others in 16 countries, with bulk of the cases reported in mainland China. At least 213 have died in mainland China as of Jan.31.
The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) said that by asking foreign domestic workers to stay at home, however, they are in effect being tagged as a potential source of the virus, when what the Hong Kong government should be doing instead is providing them protective equipment and information.
“We think it’s totally unfair for asking migrant domestic workers (MDW) to stay at home with the disease outbreak. MDW is not the source of the problem, this proposal put migrants as the scapegoats. It also creates further tension between employers and workers,” Lau Ka-mei, organising secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions said.
“I also mentioned that our migrants suffered from lack of protective equipment and information. Hong Kong government is not able to provide masks to the society, but just play the blame game on migrants,” she added.
Eman Villanueva, chairperson of BAYAN Hong Kong & Macau, on the other hand, slammed the proposal as “blatantly discriminatory.”
“It is unjust to even suggest that FDWs sacrifice, or be denied of, their only rest day after six days of heavy work, in most cases working 12-16 hours of a day, based only on prejudice and malicious assumptions that FDWs are incapable of necessary hygienic and healthy lifestyle,” he said in a Facebook post on Jan.30.
“Unless ALL people in Hong Kong are instructed to do so, singling out FDWs to stay at home during their rest day while other members of the household can freely leave is meaningless and is blatantly discriminatory.”
The Labour Department, responding to these comments, said they only made such a suggestion because “we have a serious problem now,” but the foreign domestic helpers, composed of mostly of Filipinos and Indonesians, can still do what they want on their rest day.
“We cannot control them,” he said.
Families scared to let helpers go out: Association
Source: RTHK 19 February 2020 (bold format added)
News that a foreign domestic worker in Hong Kong has tested positive for the new coronavirus has left many families in fear of catching the illness from their helpers, an employers' group says. On Tuesday, a 32-year-old Filipino worker became the SAR's 61st confirmed Covid-19 case. Health officials believe the woman caught the illness at her employer's home, with the family also coming down with the virus after a hotpot dinner in North Point. But the chairwoman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, Betty Yung, says the case has left families scared to "allow" their employees to go out. "Before, many employers were willing to let their domestic helpers go out on [their] holidays, but now they are really frightened in case some domestic helpers get infected and they bring the disease back to their home," Yung said. "Actually, employers would like the domestic helpers to stay more at home, rather than going out on holidays," she told RTHK's Janice Wong. Yung added that employers should try to negotiate with their helpers, by explaining the current situation regarding the outbreak, and by making it clear that the reason they don't want them to go out on their days off is "just because they love them".
The 19 February 2020 RTHK article (above) is entirely selfish and one sided in that it gives NO regards to the lawful rights of the Employee regarding their workplace health and safety. It is only discussing the rights of the Employer and is not discussing the rights of the Employee! Now with Covid-19 what are the Employees rights?
The 19 February 2020 RTHK article (above) says a Filipino woman domestic helper was infected in her place of work, the home of her employer, after her Employer had a hotpot meal in North Point. The Covid-19 infection given to this Filipino female employee was from her Employer who was NOT following HK Government Centre for Health Protection (CHP) guidelines on social distancing! What penalty is the Employer facing from the HK Government? What compensation will the Employee receive?
In light of CoVid-19, what are the rights now of FDW Employees to their health and safety in working conditions in HK?
Are Employees, domestic or otherwise, within their rights to refuse to perform a task for their Employer if they are concerned that they are being ordered to breach CHP Guidelines?
By Veby M.I.
[Update] RTHK 5 April 2020. Maids get masks, info on gathering ban.
SCMP: 18 February 2020 "Coronavirus: Hong Kong families await return of thousands of stranded domestic helpers as the Philippines lifts travel ban"