Filipino Domestic Workers Complain of Illegal Loan Scheme in Hong Kong

Several Filipino domestic workers have complained to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong about local employment agencies collaborating with their counterparts in the Philippines coercing them to take loans from finance companies.

In a report by The SUN, at least 19 domestic workers reported the suspected collusion between Philippine employment agencies and their partners in Hong Kong.

The workers, who arrived from the Philippines in recent months told the Consulate on July 29 that they had received letters demanding payment from a money lender named Mutual Honour (Hong Kong) Ltd.

The loan scheme reportedly involved requiring Hong Kong-bound domestic workers to sign a loan agreement for P16,000 in Manila with a company based in Hong Kong before they leave.

But upon arrival in Hong Kong, domestic workers learned they have to pay the partner agency in Hong Kong. They were told to pay back the loan through 7-Eleven outlets using a payment account already set up while the workers were still in Manila. Instead of settling their P16,000 loan, the figure was converted to HK$2,936 payable in two monthly installments of $1,469 each – a total of P19,671 at current exchange rates, an equivalent of 22% mark-up.

Payment to the Hong Kong partner agency was supposedly for ‘further training’ the workers say never materialized.Hong Kong’s labor law permits an agency to charge a commission of no more than 10% of the worker’s first monthly salary, which in this case should be HK$441.

The workers claim the loan was on top of other illegal fees reportedly collected from them in the Philippines. In one case, a maid said she paid P60,000 to an agency in Manila and the another P25,000 training fee for a Technical Education and Skill Development Authority certificate. Two of them claimed that an agency in Cebu charged them P25,000 for training and other fees, but they were charged the same fee again in the Manila office of the same agency.

Labor Attaché Nida Romulo, the head of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, contacted one of the agencies and called for a meeting on August 5. She said the labor office will have to check how many workers have been affected and they will summon the agencies involved.

The workers named the Philippine agencies as iEmploy Manpower Services, Infinity Manpower Services and MIP International Manpower Services. Their partner agencies in Hong Kong are Pacific Jet Consultants, Sacred Heart Consultant Inc and Waytech Consultants.