Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong stand to benefit a HK$160 wage increase from their employers, according to a report in Hong Kong’s “The Standard” newspaper.
It means that Filipino workers in Hong Kong will receive a monthly salary of at least HK$3,740 (P20,695.78).
They will also get over 3 percent increase in their food allowance, which will now amount to HK$775 (P4,288) a month.
However, the 4.5-percent pay raise — the biggest in years — may do little other than keep pace with inflation, the report said.
The raised levels of the minimum allowable wage and the food allowance will apply to all contracts signed from June 1, it also said.
The minimum wage is set at HK$28 an hour, or HK$5,376 a month for someone working eight hours a day, six days a week.
Employers not happy
The report said employers of the 290,000 foreign helpers are complaining of hardship from the pay hike as it comes amid increased costs of living.
“[The pay hike] affects domestic helpers six days a week. But inflation affects employers 30 days a month,” said Joseph Law, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association.
Maggie Cheung, a worker at the Reharja Employment Agency, added everything is becoming so expensive, “and on top of that you have to pay for a maid’s dental fees, their doctor’s fees — everything.”
“[People] need a maid, so they’ll sacrifice a meal a week, or something else, but it’s not fair to Hong Kong citizens,” she added.
Unions not happy
For their part, helpers’ union leaders claimed the increased cost of living will make it hard for maids to save.
The report said they have already threatened to seek a judicial review as foreign domestic helpers are excluded from the minimum wage law, which took effect on May 1.
For its part, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body — which groups unions for Filipino, Indonesian, Thai and South Asian helpers — has called a rally for July 1 to press for a minimum HK$4,000 a month.
“It’s better than last year, but in 1998 the wage was HK$3,860 and [goods then] were not as expensive as now,” said group spokeswoman Eni Lestari, who is also chairwoman of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong.
“We may have more money but we can buy less things. HK$4,000 should be the minimum wage. The government owes [us] a lot,” she added.
Another spokeswoman for the group, Iwengkarsiwen, said she has worked in Hong Kong for 11 years but does not have any money in a bank account.
She said most of her salary is spent in Hong Kong on food, clothing, and mobile phone charges.
Dolores Balladares, chairwoman of United Filipinos, was surprised the pay rise was revealed Wednesday as they had been told to expect an announcement in August.
She also said bosses should be able to afford HK$4,000, noting that even during the 2003 SARS crisis when a helper’s wage was cut to HK$3,270 employers could still manage a HK$400-a-month levy.
The government has frozen the levy until July 30, 2013, to ease inflationary pressure on employers. Balladares also said the increased food allowance would only impact “one percent of helpers.” — JE, GMA News