Misery laid bare at helpers' protest

Local | Stella Wong Jun 19, 2017
An Indonesian domestic helper told of how she eats just one meal a day, sleeps in a tiny storeroom and is terrorized by her employer.

Recalling her ordeal yesterday, Yandi said she lived under constant fear as her female boss smashed plates and chairs near her when she lost her temper.

For five months she has slept on a small bed among suitcases in a cramped storage room behind the kitchen, so stuffy it made her ill twice a month. "Then I would get blamed and shouted at by my employers for putting them at risk of getting infected," she said.

She did not expect the poor living conditions, as the contract stated she would sleep with the employers' children, aged three and five.

Yandi, 38, is paid HK$4,800 a month, but her employers only provide one meal a day. "Sometimes she just gives me some rotten food they won't eat, such as expired instant noodles."

Yandi was one of 30 protesters who marched to the Indonesian consulate yesterday, following International Domestic Workers' Day on Friday.

The Indonesian Women Struggle Committee and Socialist Action called on society to "end modern slavery," and demanded the right for domestic helpers to live away from employers, a limit of eight hours work a day, and abolition of the agency system, which takes a commission of HK$12,000 to HK$15,000 per worker. Chanting "Eight hours a day, no delay," Umi Sudarto, the chairwoman of migrant group KOBUMI, described working conditions for helpers as "unacceptable."

"Many of us have to work from 6am to 11pm and we only have one holiday each week," Sudarto said. "I want to study and exercise every day, but I cannot as I need to stay in the employer's house for 24 hours."

The groups said almost 38 percent of domestic workers work more than 16 hours a day, while the rest work more than 11 hours.

But Joan Tsui Hiu-tung, convener of Support Group for HK Employers with Foreign Domestic Helper, said they were individual cases and they cannot reflect the general situation in Hong Kong.

"Most employers treat their domestic workers very well," Tsui said. "Domestic workers should not depict themselves as poor victims."

She advised those who sleep in a poor environment to report their cases to the Immigration Department.

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June 2017