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      FDH number up again in Oct, but agencies say most are returnees

      Posted on 04 November 2020 No comments

      by Vir B. Lumicao  

      OFWs held up by travel restrictions in the Philippines are returning to HK, agencies say

      The September surge in the number of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong continued last month, with 748 additions at the end of last month, Immigration statistics show.

      But the increase doesn’t really reflect a rebound in recruitment in the Philippines as the arrivals are most returning workers, according to the head of an employment agency group.

      The second month of growth brought the total number of Filipinos helpers in the city to 208,143, up from 206,395 in the previous month.

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      But the October total is still 11,585 short of the Filipino helper number in Hong Kong in January before the coronavirus crisis began.

      Indonesian domestic helpers also grew in number by 678, to a total of 158,551, but this could be due to the gradual relaxation of the travel restrictions imposed by Jakarta on its migrant workers returning to their jobsites.

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      Thomas Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, says the  increase in the ranks of both Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers in the past two months could be mostly returning workers.

      “For Indonesians, I guess most of them are those returnees or those working before in Hong Kong,” said Chan, whose Bright International Services Co deploys helpers from the two countries.

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      “Since the Indonesian government is introducing a new policy on placement for Indonesian agencies, most of the agencies there have stopped sending files to Hong Kong before the picture becomes clear when the new policy gets implemented,” Chan said.

      As for the growth in the Filipino helpers’ population, Chan said the majority of them must have been hired in earlier months but were not able to depart earlier because of Covid-related restrictions.

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      “The recruitment in the Philippines doesn’t [reflect] an obvious improvement in the past two months,” he said.

      Last month, Chan said the returning Filipino helpers were those who went home for a vacation during the year-end holidays and got stranded by the long lockdowns in Metro Manila due to outbreaks of Covid-19 infections.

      Since the start of the pandemic-related lockdown, the Manila-Hong Kong route has been serviced by irregular Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines flights, which were joined recently on the route by Philippine Airlines, and lately, by Cebu Pacific.


      Foreign Domestic Helpers Population in Hong Kong

       

      At end of Month/Year

      Philippines

      Indonesia

      India

      Other nationalities

      Total -- all nationalities

      Jan-20

      219,728

      170,898

      4,838

      4,657

      400,121

      Feb-20

      217,654

      171,291

      4,857

      4,619

      398,421

      Mar-20

      218,002

      170,318

      4,818

      4,594

      397,732

      Apr-20

      215,061

      167,747

      4,723

      4,493

      392,024

      May-20

      212,855

      165,377

      4,664

      4,446

      387,342

      Jun-20

      211,426

      164,528

       

      9,052

      385,006

      Jul-20

      209,512

      161,762

      4,522

      4,379

      380,175

      Aug-20

      204,023

      157,337

      4,360

      4,245

      369,965

      Sep-20

      206,395

      157,873

      4,353

      4,248

      372,869

      October

      208,143

      158,551

      4,392

      4,290

      375,376

      Source: Hong Kong Immigration 

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      Filipina in HK laments double blow to family in wake of ‘Rolly’

      Posted on No comments

      By Vir B. Lumicao 

      Power lines have been cut off in many parts of the Bicol region

      A Filipina domestic helper in Hong Kong whose father died of heart attack in Cavite at the height of Super Typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni) last Sunday is appealing for help to contact her family in storm-ravaged Catanduanes.

      Mary Jane Estido’s father Eduardo, 55, succumbed to the attack as Rolly slammed into the Philippines with peak winds of 225 kilometers per hour.

      Estido, 30, said the typhoon wrecked her family’s house in Virac, Catanduanes, dealing the family a double blow. Reports said 30,383 other homes in Bicol were destroyed. The super typhoon also cut off communication lines in the area.

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       “Namatay sa kasagsagan ng bagyo sa Cavite, inatake, tapos ang mga kapatid kong nasa Bikol, hindi nila alam ang nangyari,” said Estido in an online chat.

      (He died of a heart attack in Cavite at the height of the typhoon, but my siblings in Bicol are not even aware of it)

      Mary Jane is looking for a way to tell her siblings in Catanduanes about their pa's death

      On Monday, the Office of Civil Defense in the Bicol region reported that the typhoon flattened Virac, destroying 80-90% of buildings there. The OCD placed the death toll at 19 Tuesday night, with 3 of the fatalities being reported in Virac.

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      Only the media, Red Cross and Air Force are connecting Virac’s 70,000 population to the outside world, Estido said.

      Wala po, zero communication ang Catanduanes dahil hinagupit ng bagyo po,” said Estido, who has been working for a family in Choi Hung, Kowloon for 2 years and 8 months. (There’s nothing we can do. Catanduanes has zero communication after being lashed by the typhoon).

      Countless houses have been wrecked by Goni in Catanduanes

      She said her mother and siblings are not aware until now that her father, who settled in Cavite with a new family, is gone.

      Importante lang sanang malaman nila na patay na si Papa,” she said.

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      (It’s just important for them to know that Papa is dead)

      Estido said she is the breadwinner for her mother Merle Marquez, 7-year-old daughter, and siblings Lanie, Eduardo Jr and Joseph.

      She said only her eldest brother Elmer has so far heard about their father’s death as he lives in another town in Cavite, and has since traveled to Naic to pay his respects.

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      The twin tragedies dashed hopes of a birthday celebration for Estido, who is turning 30 later this month, and her daughter, who will be 7 tomorrow, Thursday.

      Nakakaiyak, Diyos ko, nasalanta na ng bagyo namatayan pa,” Estido lamented. (Oh my God, it makes me want to cry. Not only were we ravaged by a typhoon, we also lost a family member).

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      Appeal court rejects labour tribunal's finding of child abuse vs FDH

      Posted on No comments

      By Daisy CL Mandap 

      A retrial before another presiding officer was ordered by the appeal judge

      The High Court has ordered a retrial of the labour claim filed by a Filipina domestic worker against her employer who had accused her of molesting her nine-year-old female ward more than four years ago.

      In a decision handed down on Nov 3, Justice Bebe Pui Ying Chu granted the appeal filed by Joenalyn D. Mallorca against the Labour Tribunal’s decision dismissing her claim for wages in lieu of notice, annual leave pay, and damages for breach of trust against her former employer, Ng Mei Shuen.

      Justice Chu, who acted as a lone appeal court judge, said the tribunal’s acting presiding officer Ho Wai Yan had committed an error in law in finding that the “hurting” or molestation charge against Mallorca was true, as there was no evidence to support that conclusion.

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      Ho dismissed Mallorca’s claim on Sept 23, 2019, saying that the claimant’s conduct in “hurting” the employer’s daughter justified her summary dismissal. Mallorca was awarded only her statutory claim of $970 with interest, but failed to win damages and costs.

      Ho agreed with the employer’s claim that Mallorca had inserted her finger in the genitals of her young ward on at least two occasions while bathing the girl, causing injury and inflammation.

      In overruling the tribunal’s decision, Judge Chu pointed out that the hurting claim was first made by Ng’s daughter in a statement made two years after the alleged incident, while the employer herself alleged it for the first time in a submission to the tribunal only in September last year, or three years since.

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      Further, the judge said evidence showed the employer did not do anything to stop the alleged abuse by the helper, which she claimed was reported to her by her daughter a couple of times during the 3 ½ months that Mallorca had worked for them.

      What was clear, said the judge, was that Ng did not even ask Mallorca to stop bathing her daughter, and did not make any report to the police even though the alleged misconduct amounted to sexual abuse of the child. Neither did Ng contact any social worker or her daughter’s teachers.

      Judge Chu also said Ho’s finding that Mallorca had committed the hurting act on multiple occasions was not supported by the girl’s own statements.

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      Based on the evidence, the judge said there were at least four inconsistencies in the statements made by Ng and her daughter: the number of times the alleged molestation happened, the extent of the alleged “insertion” by the helper’s finger into the girl’s private parts, the extent of the alleged injuries, and the doctor they alleged to have consulted.

      “Having considered all the above, I am of the view that there was no evidence to support Presiding Officer’s conclusion that C’s (Mallorca) conduct in the Hurting Allegation was a serious misconduct which justified summary dismissal.  Such conclusion was based on the Presiding Officer’s misunderstanding of the evidence, and/or finding of facts, or inference from the facts, which were perverse or irrational.  In my view, such conclusion was an error of law,” said the judge.

      The appeal judge says there was no evidence that the FDW had molested the girl

      The judge also upheld all the three other grounds for the appeal raised by Mallorca through her counsel, Kareena Teh, including Ng’s act of waiving any future claims against the helper when she signed a settlement agreement with her on Sept 22, 2016, in the presence of police officers.

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      The presiding officer had dismissed the agreement as no more than a letter stating what the employer intended to do at the time, but the judge upheld Teh’s argument that the tribunal failed to consider that this was actually an intention to compensate the helper.

      Chu also agreed with the claimant that the tribunal has the authority to award costs and damages in the case.

      Mallorca had sought compensation after Ng terminated her work contract on Sept 22, 2016, just over three months after she started working for the family. The helper alleged the employer had slapped and then dismissed her for no reason.

      Mallorca initially filed only a claim for unpaid wages, a month’s salary in lieu of notice and return air fare against Ng at the Tribunal. Ng only offered to pay her arrears in wages totaling $1,824.37 and plane fare of $1,300.

      The Filipina returned home in December 2016 to look after her mother, who was sick of lung cancer, and her two children without settling four other items with her employer, totaling $8,707.33, including wages in lieu.

      She later amended her claim to include damages for wrongful dismissal, amounting to over $85,000.

      For the second hearing set for Feb 2, 2017, Mallorca could not return because no one would take care of her mother, so, she authorized HELP for Domestic Workers to represent her.

      Mallorca applied to give evidence via video link but Tribunal Presiding Officer David Chum dismissed her application on Mar 30, 2017, and struck off her claims against Ng without a trial.

      With help from another NGO, Justice Without Borders, solicitors firm Dechert took Mallorca’s case to the High Court, which reversed Chum’s ruling and ordered the use of video link. Judge Chu also ordered the Tribunal to restore Mallorca’s claims.

      The case generated a lot of interest at the time as it was the first time that a FDW was allowed to testify via video link from the Philippines in a compensation claim before the Labour Tribunal.

      On April 20 this year, Judge Chu also granted Mallorca’s leave to appeal her case against the tribunal’s decision.

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      HK tells employers, firing FDHs who catch Covid-19 illegal

      Posted on 03 November 2020 No comments

      By Vir B. Lumicao

      An infected FDH shares photo inside an isolation ward at HK hospital (File)

      Dismissing foreign domestic helpers who have contracted the coronavirus disease is against the Employment Ordinance and the standard employment contract, the Hong Kong government reminded employers today, Nov 3.

      A government advisory said that employers who fire their helpers who have been sick of Covid-19 are liable to prosecution and a fine of up to $100,000 if convicted.

      “We would like to remind employers that they should not terminate or repudiate an employment contract with an FDH who has contracted Covid-19,” the statement said. 

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      “Under the EO, an employer is prohibited from terminating the contract of employment of an employee on his or her paid sickness day, except in cases of summary dismissal due to the latter’s serious misconduct.”

      Consul General Raly Tejada welcomed the news, and credited the Philippine Consulate General (PCG)’s assistance to nationals section for getting the HK government to make its stand on the issue clear.

      “This is the product of PCG’s hard work, especially its ATN section who quietly lobbied Hong Kong authorities to arrest seemingly arbitrary dismissals. Basically, we told Hong Kong authorities to remind employers that there is no basis for them to dismiss sick workers as it is against the law,” ConGen Tejada said when asked to comment on the report.

       

      ConGen Tejada says the HK govt warning was made at the behest of the Consulate

      “Things came to a head when even newly arrived workers who tested positive at the airport were dismissed by employers even after being treated and certified Covid-free. Worse some (about 4) were sent back to the Philippines. We welcome Hong Kong’s official and clear statement that it is against the law to dismiss sick workers,” he said.

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      ConGen Tejada was referring to a string of cases that started with Ermelyn De?o being escorted to Hong Kong airport by immigration officers on Sept 19, straight from her discharge from Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital. She spent a week at the hospital after testing positive on arrival in Hong Kong.

      Despite HK Immigration’s denial that they had taken a firm stance against FDHs testing positive on arrival, three other newly arrived Filipina migrant workers suffered the same fate.

      Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, general manager of the Mission for Migrant Workers, said the government statement merely echoed what they had been saying all along, that the dismissal of sick domestic workers violated the Employment Ordinance.

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      Technically, this reminder should cover the four Filipina new arrivals in September who tested positive and were sent back home by Hong Kong Immigration without stamping their passports after hospital confinement, said Tellez.

      Deno's visa was not stamped on arrival, as if she never entered HK

      She said the Mission is trying to help De?o pursue her employer for compensation, but with the worker not being in Hong Kong, the task is not easy. However, there are several avenues for redress that are being looked into, including the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Labour Department.

      Marites Palma, founder of Social Justice for Migrant Workers, expressed hope that all the four FDWs who were sent back to Manila will still be able to claim compensation from  their employers who rejected them even after they were certified virus-free.

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      Contacted by The SUN for an explanation for the hasty removal from Hong Kong of the four, Immigration said the workers were “removed” because their employers had changed their minds after they tested positive for Covid-19.

      Today’s advisory warned employers against repudiating their contracts with their previously infected helper, saying this could also violate the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

      The statement said that upon recovery of the infected helpers, employers should let them start or resume work and maintain a cordial employment relationship with them.

      “When handling matters on employment with FDHs, employers should observe their obligations and requirements under the EO and the SEC. Where applicable, the employer should grant sick leave and sickness allowance to the eligible FDH in accordance with the EO,” the statement said. 

      “Where a sick FDH has not accumulated sufficient paid sickness days to cover the period of his or her sick leave, we appeal to the employer to be compassionate and consider granting the FDH paid sick leave.” 

      The statement cited Clause 9(a) of the standard employment contract which states that if the helper falls ill or suffers personal injury during the period of employment, regardless of whether this arises out of employment, the employer shall provide free medical treatment to the helper.

      The only exception is when the helper falls ill after leaving Hong Kong of his or her own volition and for his or her own personal purposes.

      Employers were also reminded to comply with relevant anti-Covid-19 measures implemented by the government, such as requiring all persons including FDHs arriving in Hong Kong to undergo compulsory 14-day quarantine.

      The measures include requiring a traveler from abroad, including Indonesia and the Philippines, to provide a certificate of negative nucleic acid test report issued by a government-recognized laboratory before boarding a flight to Hong Kong. The test must be taken within 72 hours of the flight departure.

      The government again reminded employers to arrange and pay for the costs of the test and the compulsory 14-day hotel quarantine of the helper, and provide food allowance during quarantine.

      But at the same time, the government repeated its warning against the termination of contracts by FDWs who merely want to change employers, often referred to as “job hopping.”

      While it has speeded up the processing of work contracts of FDWs who are in Hong Kong, Immigration will continue scrutinizing the details of applicants, particularly the number and reasons for their termination in the past 12 months.

      Those deemed to be job hoppers will have their applications denied, and will be sent home. 

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      HK records 3 new local infections & 6 imported, including 2 FDHs

      Posted on No comments

      By The SUN 

      5 confirmed & 2 preliminary positive cases are now linked to the Lantau staycation (RTHK photo)

      The number of Covid-19 cases linked to a family “staycation” in Lantau grew today, Nov. 3, with two more confirmed cases being reported, and another two people testing preliminary positive.

      The Centre for Health Protection said that while the two new patients, both males, aged 24 and 26, did not join the group at Seaview Holiday Resort, they had come into contact with them.

      The first reported case in the cluster is a 26-year-old female clerk in Taipo, who tested positive on Nov. 1. Excluding the preliminary positive cases, the total number of people linked to this cluster is now 5.

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      A third confirmed case is a 36-year-old man who interacted with no less than 200 people during the incubation period, and whose source of infection is unknown.

      The patient lives in Causeway Bay and works in Central, where he played cards with about 10 people in an office.

      His other activities included playing football with about 20 friends in Wong Chuk Hang; and basketball with a few more people in Ap Lei Chau. He also had drinks with a friend in a bar in Central.

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      CHP’s Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan said specimen bottles for Covid-19 tests will be distributed to about 200 of his colleagues and friends.

      2 FDHs who tested positive while in quarantine are among 6 new imported cases

      Meanwhile, two foreign domestic workers were among six new imported cases today.

      They include a 29-year-old Filipina who flew in via Cebu Pacific’s Flight 5J 142 on Oct 22, and tested positive yesterday on her second test, while under quarantine at Silka Seaview Hotel in Yau Ma Tei.

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      The other is a 23-year-old Indonesian who arrived on Cathay Pacific flight CX976 on Oct. 30 from Jakarta.

      She was taken to a quarantine center after being deemed as close contact of a compatriot who flew in with her, and tested positive on arrival at HK International Airport. A second test confirmed she had Covid-19.

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      The other imported cases are three returnees from the United Kingdom who are asymptomatic but were confirmed to have the virus while in quarantine; and a newly arrived traveler from the United States.

      The city’s total Covid-19 tally is now 5,346, with 105 deaths.

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      3 Filipinos in court for gambling, violation of gathering rules

      Posted on No comments

      By Daisy CL Mandap 

      A 'fish-hitting' machine like this was among the items seized from the games center

      Three Filipino male residents who were arrested while gambling in a games centre at the time the strictest anti-virus gathering restrictions were in force in Hong Kong, all pleaded guilty to various offences in Eastern Court today, Nov. 3.

      The offences were committed on Aug 14 this year, at the height of the third and most deadly wave of infections to sweep across Hong Kong.

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      The restrictions imposed by the Secretary for Food and Health which were in effect from Aug 1-18 included a prohibition on the opening of games or amusement centers (Capp. 99 subs f) and the gathering in public of more than two people (Cap. 99, subs g)

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      First defendant R. Ledesma, who admitted violating the two regulations, was sentenced by Magistrate Winnie Lau to 10 days in prison for each of the two offences, but with the sentences to run concurrently.

      Magistrate Lau said that a jail term was necessary as the defendant had ignored the risk to public safety and the possible burden on medical frontliners when he committed the offences.

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      Ledesma was also fined $3,000 for managing the gambling establishment on the first floor of 19 Canal Road in Wanchai. He admitted being paid $800 a day for running the gambling establishment for an unknown person.

      He decided to plead guilty to all the charges against him despite being told by the magistrate that he could ask for an adjournment so he could seek legal advice, as a prison term was inevitable in his case.

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      The two other Filipino men, A. Tagbatan and R. Miranda, were fined $800 each after admitting a charge of illegal gambling.

      The prosecution said all the defendants had prior convictions, but only Ledesma had a record related to gambling.

      Lau said the sentences already reflected the 1/3 discount given to all accused for their guilty plea.

      Three other people, all non-Filipinos, were similarly charged with gambling at the said premises but were not in court for the hearing.

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      All the defendants were arrested during a raid on the illegal establishment by a team from the Wanchai Police Department, under authority by the Department for Food and Health.

      On application by the prosecution and with the consent of the defendants, the court ordered that various gambling paraphernalia seized from the illicit establishment, including betting machines for “fish hitting” and “insect shooting”, be destroyed.

      In a separate case, another Filipino man was fined $500 in Kowloon City Court after pleading guilty to gambling in a gambling establishment in Yaumatei on Aug 2.

      A.A. Gomez, 46 years old, was among eight people arrested by police when they raided a second-floor flat on a building on 8 Battery St, Yaumatei, at 12:35pm on that day. His co-accused were all sentenced in a previous hearing, but his case was adjourned because he had no interpreter in court.

      After announcing the sentence, Magistrate Ada Yim reminded Gomez not to return to an illegal gambling establishment.

      But Gomez replied, “That’s impossible. Thank you,” before walking away. – with a report from Vir B. Lumicao

       


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