MANILA, Philippines – Non-government organizations based in Hong Kong lauded the move of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for abolishing the levy on employers hiring foreign domestic workers.
Cynthia Abdon-Tellez of the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) said that since the start of its implementation in 2003, advocates have called the levy as unjust burden to both the employers and to foreign domestic workers (FDWs).
“With the news of its abolition, employers and FDWs can breathe a small sigh of relief,” said Abdon-Tellez.
The announcement to scrap the $400 levy was made on Wednesday, when the Hong Kong Chief Executive delivered his policy address.
“For years, migrants and advocates have lobbied for its abolition and even challenged the constitutionality of the levy. This is the reward of such painstaking advocacy,” said Abdon-Tellez.
She hopes that this will serve as an inspiration for supporters of migrant’s rights to persevere in pressing the HK government to also make the necessary changes to discriminatory rules in Hong Kong such as the Two-Week Rule and the mandatory live-in employment arrangement.
“To not worry about the levy anymore is indeed a relief. But for as long as social exclusion and discrimination persists in Hong Kong, the rights of FDWs will always be insecure and easily violated by unscrupulous employers, agencies and even by the government,” Abdon-Tellez concluded.
Meanwhile, Eni Lestari, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) considered the scrapping of the levy as a victory.
“Victory is ours. The determination of foreign domestic workers to defeat the levy has finally paid off,” Lestari said.
Lestari said that FDWs including herself and other members of AMCB, filed a case against the HK government on April 1, 2003 seeking a court order to declare the levy as illegal and unconstitutional. She said the HK government prevailed then.
“But we persisted and persevered. Through our rallies and submissions, we never let the government and the public forget that the undue and unjust burden of the levy is still existing alongside other policies that are regressive and violate the rights of migrants including our exclusion from the statutory minimum wage,” she stressed.
But the campaign against the levy, she said, strengthened unity and solidarity among migrant workers.
“Once again, we have proven that our collective strength to fight for our rights and welfare has borne positive results. We shall continue our struggle to achieve more victories in our campaign against social exclusion in Hong Kong,” she said.