家‧傭同行 Open Door
新婦女協進會 Association for the Advancement of Feminism
民間人權陣線 Civil Human Rights Front
Dear Immigration/Labour Department,
Recently in the news, we found that a famous singer, Miss Purple Lee, showed photos of her domestic worker accommodation – it was built above a toilet. (Refer to: http://news.hkheadline.com/dailynews/headline_news_detail_columnist.asp?id=196270)
Violation of ‘suitable accommodation’ requirement in DH Employment Contract?
We believe this is a violation of the standard employment contract for domestic helpers from abroad. Please confirm whether the Immigration and Labour Department consider it ‘suitable’ accommodation or not. (to be added?) Although the singer may claim that it is not the domestic workers’ bed, the Government should check whether this claim is true or not.
In the standard contract from the Immigration Department (ID 407) it says:
The Employer should provide the Helper suitable accommodation and with reasons privacy. Examples of unsuitable accommodation are: The Helper having to sleep on made-do beds in the corridor with little privacy and sharing a room with an adult/teenager of the opposite sex.
The estimated size of the room and the exact sleeping arrangement are supposed to be specified. But once the worker has arrived, she has no power to complain or she may be terminated.
Sleeping in the toilet, in the study room, in a bathtub, on a kitchen floor…. These are conditions that many domestic workers must live in, or else risk being terminated. This is a shameful reality in Hong Kong.
The Government, which allows the workers to legally immigrate, is completely responsible for ensuring the workers’ safety while here.
Yet we have learned there is NO mechanism for monitoring and inspection offered by the Hong Kong government. In phone conversations, the Immigration Department and the Labour Department have admitted that they have no record regarding the number of complaints received about improper accommodation.
The Immigration Department does not show any investment into the inspection and monitoring regarding the living environment of foreign domestic workers.
According to the audit review written by the Audit Commission in March 2011, there is no evidence of any inspection action carried out by the Immigration Department.
Also, according to Mission for Migrant Workers (2011), 67% of the 2,023 clients served by the Mission did not have their own room, often sharing with children or elderly family members. Sometimes they sleep out in the living room or in other places like the pantry or laundry room, and lack places to keep their things. They are Hong Kong workers, and they are Hong Kong female workers – they very much need the protection of their safety while at work. If they cannot sleep in decent conditions, have no privacy, no oversight at all of their work conditions, then it is our responsibility as Hong Kong people that violations of their rights happen over and over again, year after year.
IT MUST STOP – don’t wait for employers to ‘be good’ even while the Government does not monitor. The Government must take strong action to protect the workers and give them decent accommodation as a pre-condition of employment.
We feel very disappointed that in Hong Kong, even a famous singer feels no shame about providing such a horrible place for their domestic worker to sleep, even when the home size is 1,800 square feet.
This attitude about the housing of the domestic workers is due to lack of Government enforcement.
The Government should ensure that employers provide decent housing and make sure to check that it is suitable for the workers before they arrive and are unable to complain.
The Government must take concrete and firm measures to ensure that domestic workers sleeping above a toilet or on the floor does not happen in ANY home in Hong Kong.
We hope we never see such shameful conditions for domestic workers ever again. It is a shame to Hong Kong. These inhumane accommodations are a serious violation against human beings and we expect your immediate reply and action.