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Migrant Workers Demand End to Discrimination, Better Working Conditions on Labor Day

Asian Migrants Coordinating Body AMCB
photo credit: AMCB

As Hong Kong marks International Labor Day, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB-IMA HK) is calling for an end to discrimination and better working conditions for migrant domestic workers, who have long been subjected to poor treatment and unfair accusations.

Recent media reports have highlighted the issue of “job-hopping” among migrant domestic workers, with some employers claiming that workers are quitting early and frequently, citing family matters in their home countries. However, the AMCB-IMA HK argues that this is a one-sided narrative that fails to acknowledge the harsh realities faced by these workers.

According to a 2023 service report by the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW Limited), many migrant domestic workers are forced to work in appalling conditions, with one in three lacking a private room to rest and seven in ten complaining of long working hours. Moreover, over one in ten workers are made to clean windows at high floors, a dangerous violation of their employment contract.

“It’s a right of every worker to seek better working conditions,” said Sringatin, a spokesperson for the AMCB-IMA HK. “The current working conditions are pushing and forcing migrant workers to change employers.”

The group also points out that Hong Kong’s two-week rule, which requires migrant domestic workers to leave the territory within two weeks of contract termination, makes it difficult for them to seek better employment opportunities. This, combined with the threat of job-hopping accusations, leaves workers hesitant to terminate their contracts, even in the worst situations.

In contrast, data from the MFMW Limited’s 2022 service report reveals that many Hong Kong employers terminated contracts with their domestic workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in widespread job loss and a 597% increase in claimed entitlements. The report shows that employers initiate most contract terminations, contradicting claims of “job-hopping” and “employer-shopping” by migrant workers.

The AMCB-IMA HK is demanding that the Hong Kong government stop criminalizing migrant domestic workers who seek better working conditions and instead address the root causes of the problem. The group is calling for the inclusion of migrant domestic workers in the statutory minimum wage, provision of suitable accommodation, and regulation of long working hours.

By doing so, the government can help reduce the issue of abuse and early termination of migrant domestic workers, who are essential contributors to Hong Kong’s society. As Sringatin emphasized, “If the working condition is good, MDWs will treasure the family that they are working with.”

On this Labor Day, the AMCB-IMA HK’s demands serve as a timely reminder of the need to protect the rights and dignity of all workers, regardless of their nationality or occupation.