On Int’l Women’s Day, HK FDWs march for pay hike

“As women and as migrants, we have the right for substantive and commensurate wage increase” 
“While Hong Kong enjoys a robust economy and the government gives out relief packages worth HK$100 billion to share the economy’s surplus, foreign domestic workers are left behind. On the occasion of the International Working Women’s Day, we assert our right as women and as migrant workers  for a substantive and commensurate wage hike.”
This was declared today by Eni Lestari, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) as about 3,000 FDWs marched yesterday, March 9, from Causeway Bay to the Central Government Office (CGO) in Central to demand for a wage hike for foreign helpers.
The rally was the first major action by FDWs to press for a salary increase as the government conducts its annual review of the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) for foreign maids.
“While other disadvantaged sectors in HK still press to signifantly partake in the surplus and also demand that budget and accessibility of social services be increased, we as women migrants and as part of the disadvantaged groups in HK also add our voice to this urgent and just clamor. Moreover, we are extremely disappointed and angered by the fact that the Hong Kong government has not thought of any relief for us FDWs,” she explained.
Lestari relayed that when the wage cuts were implemented in the MAW in 1999 and 2003, the Hong Kong government has peddled its acceptability by urging FDWs to share the ‘burden’ of the economic crisis.
“But now that the economy has obviously picked up, our hardships and our valuable contribution to the Hong Kong economy, acknowledged even by government economists,  are also obviously ignored,” she remarked.
The AMCB submitted a petition to the Hong Kong government that included the demands to: 1. Increase wages of foreign domestic workers to a level that is substantive and commensurate to the Hong Kong standard of living; 2. Remove the HK$ 9,600 levy imposed on employers of foreign domestic workers., and; 3. Provide a just, transparent and scientific formula for the minimum wage review.
Lestari said that their reasons for such demands included the government reports and projection of continued economic development, the fact that FDWs who work a minimum of 12 hours day get a measly HK$11 per hour, and the data that in countries whose economies are at par with that of Hong Kong’s, the salary of FDWs here pales in comparison to their counterparts.
“If the Hong Kong government is really sincere in giving back to the people the fruits of economic recovery, then it should not deny us our needed salary hike,” Lestari challenged.
Lestari reported that their group is working closely with local worker’s unions and organizations to push through the campaign for a legislated minimum wage for all Hong Kong workers. She said that protection of the wage of workers was very timely considering the attacks of neoliberal globalization to worker’s rights as shown by the wage cuts in Hong Kong in the past years.
“Neoliberal globalization has put our livelihood in a worse condition. The need for wage hike for FDWs is very urgent. Thus, we march to seek the immediate response of the Hong Kong government to our demands,” she stated.
The group said that the rally was their opening salvo for an “intensified campaign” for wage increase and the abolition of the levy.
“We shall do so again and again until substantial changes are made to address the hardships and grave situation of FDWs,” Lestari concluded.#

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