POLO, Philippine Consulate raise issue of OFWs' placement fee with HK Labor Department

Date Posted: September 10th, 2014 05:49 AM


Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said she had received a report that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Hong Kong headed by Labor Attache Manuel Roldan, and the Philippine Consulate headed by Consul General Bernardita Casalla, had met with officials of the Hong Kong Labour Department in a bid to formulate cooperative agreements to address the concerns of OFWs in Hong Kong. "Labatt Roldan reported that the Philippine side raised the issue of placement fees and complaints of workers against their Hong Kong employers during a meeting with Commissioner Donald Tong, Deputy Commissioner Byron Ng, Assistant Commissioner Nicholas Chan, and Queenie Wong, a senior administrative officer of the Hong Kong Labour Department," said Baldoz. "Their discussion focused on the need to cooperate with each other in addressing the concerns of Filipino household service workers in Hong Kong, particularly on placement fee issues and workers' complaints against their employers," Baldoz added. In his report, Labor Attache Roldan said he explained to the HK Labour Department officials the Philippines's processes and procedures in hiring Filipino workers, emphasizing the government's "no-placement fee" policy, the process of accrediting Hong Kong-based employment agencies with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and their responsibilities to the workers they hire. Consul General Catalla, on her part, raised the issue about the prevailing practice of Hong Kong-based agencies of collecting placement fees from workers in violation of Hong Kong laws, which allows only a service fee of 10 percent of a worker's first month's salary. Roldan reported that this policy is being defied. “Upon their arrival, they are brought by the agency to a Hong Kong lending company to sign a loan document specifying an amount of up to P3,000 that they had to pay through monthly installment of between five to seven months. "The workers are asked to pay through various 7-Eleven branches. They are also being made to open a bank account in Hong Kong, but are required to surrender their ATM cards to their agencies. Later, the agencies give to the worker only the balance of their salaries after the amount of service fee for the month has been deducted. These practices, along with other OFW complaints, such as illegal recruitment and abuse, often remain unreported, Roldan explained. Commissioner Tong said he is encouraging workers to report their complaints against their employers to the Hong Kong Labour Department, and against their agencies to the Employment Agency Administration. He said their complaints will be used as basis of his department to conduct an inspection and investigation. But Consul General Catalla said the problem was the availability of the workers to file complaints, saying that they are free only on Sundays, when the Labor Department is closed. Catalla suggested that the Philippine Consulate accept complaints from OFWs since it is open on Sundays, summarize these complaints, and forward it to the Hong Kong Labour Department. Roldan said Commissioner Tong was amenable to the idea of this case-referral system and suggested that this be the subject of further discussion. Baldoz expressed support for the scheme, saying it will make the Hong Kong Labor Department more accessible to OFWs. "Through the case-referral system, the availability of OFWs to seek redress for their grievances and of Hong Kong authorities to hear them will no longer be an issue," said Baldoz. Roldan finally said they have also informed the good Commissioner that the POLO is already using during its conduct of the Post-Arrival Orientation Seminar (PAOS) for OFWs the educational video presentation of the Hong Kong Labour Department informing foreign workers of their rights in Hong Kong. END/jda

Created Oct 23rd 2014, 14:59


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