Standard working hours came into nothing: A long way for migrant and local workers (Part 1)
When a nine-to-five job becomes a luxury, the government ignored workers’ suffer by implementing the contract working hours as a fudge. Work erodes life, what does it mean to migrant domestic workers (MDWs) whose working place is exactly their living place? I talked with two members of migrant organizations, and they coincidentally said: we are fighting together with local workers.
How to calculate working hours of MDWs? ‘The government made it complicated.’
見面當日，Eman匆匆趕來，之後還有約會——為了避免常常請假，他盡量把會議安排在同一天。身為少數的男性家務工，Eman從菲律賓來香港工作了26年，同時擠出時間參與亞洲移民人士聯盟（Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, AMCB）的工作。AMCB是香港最大的基層移民家務工聯會，成員來自五個國籍，擁有12個屬會、組織、聯盟，約108個小組。
On the day we met, Eman rushed in, and had another meeting later. To avoid frequently asking permission to leave work, he tried to squeeze all meetings in one day. As one of a few male domestic workers, Eman came from Philippines to work in Hong Kong for 26 years. Meanwhile, he spares time to actively join in Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB). The AMCB is Hong Kong’s largest umbrella organization of grassroots migrant domestic workers with 12 affiliated unions, associations, alliances and federations comprising of about 108 groups from five nationalities.
That day, he brought a small backpack to force himself to bring less, which seems like a workaholic, but when we mentioned working hours, he became indignant. ‘Do you know that according to our research, there were around 140 MDWs died last year (2016)? Mainly due to long-time working pressure leading to cancers, some of them died suddenly at the workplace.’ He pointed out that long working hours is closely connected to the mandatory live-in policy. ‘Like the bankers, if you live in the office, will you answer the phone when the phone rings (off work)? Will you reply emails? For MDWs, when babies cry or poo in the midnight, or employers are hungry and want to eat, can you choose not to wake up? It’s like 24-hour on call.’ AMCB collected almost 29,000 signatures urging for regulation of working hours, behind each of them, there is a bitter story.
Eman形容AMCB倡議的工時方案，是為留宿家務工「度身定做」（tailor-made）的：在連續兩天的工作日期間，有11小時不間斷的休息時間，再加上用餐休息。在2016年第二季，AMCB開始就標準工時諮詢移工社群，一些姊妹擔心若按國際勞工組織（International Labour Organization, ILO）標準爭取每天工作8小時，會令她們失去工作。AMCB不願讓長工時的壓迫繼續，又要兼顧姊妹的擔憂，權衡之下產生了以上方案。11小時休息包括8小時睡眠和3小時閒暇時間，加上三餐各一個小時，換言之工作時間為每天10小時，符合ILO最高工時的規定。
Eman described the working hours proposal which AMCB demands as ‘tailor-made’ for live-in domestic workers: 11-hour uninterrupted rest periods between two consecutive workdays plus meal breaks. In the second quarter of 2016, AMCB started consultation in migrant communities. Some sisters worried that if they fight for 8-hours working time complying with the standard of International Labour Organization (ILO), they may lose their jobs. AMCB strikes a balance between the unwillingness to let oppression by long working hours continues, and the concern of sisters. 11-hour rest periods include 8 hours’ sleep and 3 hours’ leisure. In addition to each hour for three meal breaks, the working hours per day would be 10 hours, which is still in line with the maximum hours stated by ILO.
‘To lessen the resistance.’ Eman explained, ‘Of course, we understand when employers work more than 8 hours a day, how could we expect domestic workers to get off work on time? Therefore, the first and foremost object is to fight for standard working hours of the locals.’ Recently, the government announce they will legislate “contract hours” , which Eman despised a lot. ‘Local workers who earn more than 11,000 a month will be excluded, not to mention MDWs.’ The government always say legislating standard working hours would strike a blow to the economy. Eman thought that is ridiculous, since there are many countries implementing standard working hours, none of which face economic crisis because of that. It’s hard to tell whether the officers failed to do research, or did they chose to ignore those facts.
Recruiting MDWs to take care of children and the elderly becomes the norm of Hong Kong families. If MDWs get off work on time, who can take care of them? Eman is quite firm: taking care of the sick or the elderly is NOT domestic work. For example, he said, to look after the elderly, one must have basic medical knowledge like first aid, so professional caregivers or nurses are in need. ‘It supposed to be the responsibility of the government. You can’t use them as slaves when they’re young, and when they get old, you don’t care about them at all. Nowadays, cheap labour provided by MDWs become the alternative.’ I found it quite persuasive. Services like childcare and elderly care are supposed to be social welfare for people in need. However, the government includes such services into domestic work, and let family caretakers (in this society, they’re always women) work without pay in the name of love. When many women have to bear the burden of “domestic work" and work in the labour market, the government again avoids its responsibility by introducing MDWs, claiming that “in order to reduce local women’s workload”. In fact, not every family can afford to recruit a domestic worker. Even you can, it doesn’t mean you can get rid of all households. In that way, both local women and MDWs have to suffer from the consequences of government’s reluctance to bear its responsibility. In the end, I sighed and said, it is such a complicated issue. Eman laughed, ‘It’s not complicated at all. The government made it complicated.’
看多點 More information:
AMCB就標準工時委員會報告向立法會人力事務委員會提交的聲明 Submission to the Panel on Manpower Panel of the Hong Kong Legislative Council on the report of the Standard Working Hours Committee
FADWU外國家務工工時實施方案 Standard Working Hours Regulation on domestic work abroad
惟工新聞，〈政府宣佈標準工時玩完 合約工時不涵蓋八成僱員 月入逾1.1萬出局〉Workers News on contract hours