We view that the advanced contract renewal option is the concrete concession won by the foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in the campaign for the levy suspension for all contracts. We were able to force the Hong Kong government to accede to the demand to include ongoing contracts.
This is victory enough.
At the onset, the design of the levy suspension has never been for FDWs. When it was first announced, it was purely to appease employers and not a single interest of FDWs was even considered. Their pronouncement of a balancing act between the interests of employers and FDWs was empty and a sham.
The timely actions and massive participation of FDWs in the actions led by the AMCB, exposed the consequences of the original design of the suspension to the job security and rights of FDWs. It was only when FDWs depicted the sure open season of mass termination of contracts that the levy suspension would have created did the HK government start to even notice the grave impacts of their policy to the foreign employees.
The exposition of the flaws of the original design of the suspension even swayed public opinion as to its unjustness, discrimination, and cruelty to FDWs. It has shown to the HK people that, indeed, FDW rights and condition are the least of the HK government’s priorities
The Hong Kong government’s decision on the levy suspension shows that even they cannot deny the extreme unpopularity of this policy. If not for the vigilant and militant campaign by FDWs, the Hong Kong government would not have been pushed to revise their initial plan.
While the new scheme of levy suspension shall, in the end, also cover ongoing contracts, it has also created a complicated, inconvenient and burdensome process for FDWs. Additionally, it shall also force many to again pay for fees charged by consulates of labor-sending countries such as for authentication and verification of employment contracts and other incidental fees for contract renewal.
We still believe that the simplest and more effective way to implement the levy suspension is to have it outrightly cover all contracts and then just waive the remaining installments for those with ongoing levy payments. The advanced contract renewal can then be offered before July 31, 2010 in order for applicants to avail of the suspension for another two years.
This way, much of the confusion, the added bureaucratic procedure and the additional payments can be avoided.
Even with the current guidelines, we believe that there will still be FDWs who will be terminated now but shall not be renewed by the employer. In this situation, we call on the Immigration Department to exempt them from the Two-Week Rule so that they can be given enough time to process for another employer and they will also not be forced to go back home.
For consulates of labor-sending countries, they should not take advantage of this situation to collect more money. Fees charged to those who will avail of the advanced contract renewal process should be waived or discounted.
Finally, this is the best time to review policies that expose FDWs to much vulnerability.
The levy itself should be abolished. The Two-Week Rule that puts us in a situation open for abuse and exploitation must also be scrapped. More urgently, a significant wage increase must be granted that shall be the most concrete expression of relief that this government can give to FDWs.
The AMCB will not stop for us long as policies that trample on the rights of FDWs are in place. We shall always be watchful of any move that will make our condition worse given the HK government’s proven disregard of the rights of migrant workers.
We call on to all migrant workers to continue to be vigilant in protecting and upholding our rights and wellbeing. Through our collective actions, we gained victory in the levy suspension. Through even stronger and bigger actions, we shall further advance our struggle for wage increase, services, employment protection and our fundamental rights as migrant workers.#