Maids in HK protest against cleaning windows after deaths

While protesting in Hong Kong yesterday, hundreds of domestic helpers chanted: "We are workers, not slaves." Rally organisers believe at least three maids have died while cleaning windows this year.
While protesting in Hong Kong yesterday, hundreds of domestic helpers chanted: "We are workers, not slaves." Rally organisers believe at least three maids have died while cleaning windows this year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Domestic helpers in Hong Kong marched in protest yesterday after several maids fell to their death from tower block windows as they tried to clean them.

There are 300,000 maids in Hong Kong, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, with concern growing among rights groups over their welfare following several abuse cases.

A 35-year-old Filipino domestic helper fell to her death last month as she was reportedly cleaning the outside of the windows of her employer's flat. Organisers of the rally said yesterday they believed at least three maids had died falling while cleaning windows this year.

Hundreds of helpers marched in Hong Kong yesterday shouting: "We are workers, not slaves."

In a city of skyscrapers, they are calling on the government to ban employers from asking maids to clean the outside of windows. "It's hard to say no when employers ask us to clean windows, but it's scary," said Ms Dolores Balladares, a spokesman for the Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body. "It's about time the government protects the workers."

The plight of maids in Hong Kong was thrown into the spotlight when Indonesian helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih's case made world headlines. She was beaten and starved by her employer Law Wan-tung, who was jailed in February last year for six years.

Campaigners have long sought reforms, including ending the requirement for maids to live with their employers, which they say makes it difficult for them to escape abuse.

They also want the government to abolish the two-week rule, under which domestic workers must leave Hong Kong 14 days after they quit a job, unless they can find other employment within that time.

So far, the government has shown no indication it will relax either rule.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Maids in HK protest against cleaning windows after deaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe