Consul-General Defends Blacklisting of Erring HK Employers

Saying that the host government is aware of its plans, Philippine Consul-General to Hong Kong Bernardita Catalla defended the move of Philippine authorities to place erring employers on watchlist or blacklist.

“We informed Hong Kong officials that we do this and we exchange information with the Indonesian Consulate.

“What I said was that they have their own list and we have our own list. If the Indonesian officials suspect that an employer has been blacklisted, they give us the name and we reply ‘yes’ or ‘no’, that’s all,” Catalla said.

Even if there is no case filed in court, the Consul-General said, Philippine officials will still review the complaints filed by Filipino domestic workers against employers.

“If in a year and a half, you have three helpers leaving you and filing a complaint, there’s a problem,” she said.

Catalla and other Philippine Consulate General officials have met with Labour and Welfare Secretary Law Chi-Kwong and other representatives of Hong Kong’s Labour Department on August 30 to discuss the matter.

According to data from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, there are 5,791 employers barred from hiring Filipino domestic workers.

Labor attache Jalilo dela Torre said a system has been prepared to allow officials from the Philippines and Indonesia — the largest sources of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong — to coordinate with each other to blacklist abusive employers.

The system, he said, would put an end a prevailing practice of abusive employers hiring Indonesian domestic workers once they are blacklisted and barred from hiring Filipino workers, and vice-versa. Employers whose names appear in the blacklist are those whose workers filed a police report against them, particularly those involving complaints of maltreatment, and assault.

Regarding Catalla’s suggestion to be given the option to live out instead of staying in their employer’s residence — apparently to better regulate working hours — Secretary Law said allowing almost 300,000 foreign domestic workers to live out is expected to worsen the housing problem in the city. Hong Kong has one of the world’s most expensive cost of housing.

As a result of crowding inside employer’s residence, some helpers were reportedly being made to sleep under dining table, kitchen and even in a bathtub.

The Consul-General said many employers, especially the expats are not used to living with their helpers in their own home, but Law said they could not issue different rules for different groups of employers.

“Dr. Law said he recognizes the difficulty of monitoring them, but he said there’s only one regulation,” Catalla said.