When the two Indonesian women, Tasya* and Ira, first came to the Diocesan Pastoral Care for Filipinos (DPCF), they had not received their wages for two years, in violation of their contract. They were employed by the same person as Migrant Domestic Workers, but found themselves working illegally at their employer’s grocery store instead, cooking Indonesian food for customers.
When they brought up their outstanding wages to their employer, she assured them that they would be paid, as soon as business picked up or when she sold her properties in China. Despite her dubious claims, the women continued to work illegally for the employer, as they owed money to their employment agency as well.
In light of their employer’s illegal practices, they decided to approach the Hong Kong Labour Department to file a claim and receive assistance. However, the claim form was in English, and they were unable to read it or fill it out on their own. Their attempts to ask for help from staff at the Labour Department office were rebuffed, and they were told that no one would assist them in completing the forms or working out their entitlements. As a result, they gave up their claim.
The situation reached a head when the employer finally terminated their contract, after they had repeatedly asked for their unpaid wages. Tasya and Ira were able to get in contact with a woman from a local Catholic church, and they were referred to the Diocesan Pastoral Care for Filipinos (DPCF).
The DPCF helped them to complete and file their claims at the Labour Department, though the initial Conciliation meeting was inconclusive. A later Labour Tribunal hearing produced more positive results, as the women were able to submit a recording of their employer admitting to the withheld income. The employer conceded that she was in the wrong, but she claimed that she did not have enough money to settle the full amount of the claim. Out of an initial claim of HK$110,000 for each woman, they ended up receiving only HK$20,000 each. The Labour Tribunal also referred them to the police to pursue a criminal investigation, but the case was dismissed after two months.
*All names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivors.
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A version of this story was originally published at www.stophk.org on December 28, 2015. Story provided by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos.