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Transcript of remarks by SLW on meeting with Secretary of Labor and Employment of the Philippines and safety of foreign domestic helpers
     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, on the meeting with the Secretary of Labor and Employment of the Philippines, Mr Silvestre Bello III, and the safety of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) after attending the Social Enterprise World Forum 2016 today (September 25):
Reporter: About the meeting with the Philippines' visiting Secretary of Labor and Employment, Mr Silvestre Bello III, he said that you agreed to consider raising the minimum wage (of FDHs) to $5,000 as the workers suggested and he said that the Government would consider ways to forbid employers from asking the workers to clean windows.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare: I had a very useful, cordial, working dinner with visiting Philippines' Secretary of Labor and Employment, we had a very useful exchange, very cordial. We exchanged information and also shared experience. First of all, he paid warm tribute to Hong Kong for treating very well Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong and he is very appreciative. On my part, I stressed clearly that we attach great importance to protecting the right and interest of all FDHs working in Hong Kong. We got some 345 000 FDHs, over 50 per cent of them from the Philippines and 40 some per cent from Indonesia and others. Of course, we touched on the wage issue and I made the point clearly that in Hong Kong, we have got a regular exercise going on in fact annually for the last few years to review the minimum wage level for FDHs in Hong Kong. We will be doing it again this year on the basis of a basket of economic and social indicators, in other words, an objective basis, holistically take a view on the whole level, take account of, for example, the economic situation, economic growth rate, employment situation, wage levels for service workers in general, and also the cost of living index etc. We'll be following the same methodology this year, and hopefully we will come up with a decision before long, and I made the point considering the level of pay, we will take account of all factors in front of us, including of course the request from the union, and also of course we got to balance interests between the union and employers on the other hand.
     On the question of cleaning windows, I made the point that we also attach great importance to protecting the safety of all workers, whether they are foreign or local in Hong Kong, because we also have domestic household workers in Hong Kong, and even homemakers themselves. Cleaning windows is a dangerous thing to do if you are not careful enough, so what we would do is, as a start, we would step up promotion and education. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Council will step up its promotional efforts, and on our websites, we have already got a special website dedicated to FDHs in their own languages, in Tagalog, Indonesian, and also coming up in Thai as well, telling them the "do's" and "don'ts" of protecting their own safety, and also reminding employers in particular that they are responsible for the safety of all helpers in Hong Kong. I think the first practical step is education, promotion and also publicity, we will certainly step up efforts on that particular score.
Reporter: Will that (FDHs' window cleansing duty) be banned?
Secretary for Labour and Welfare: Looking at a ban, a ban is not easy to implement and also we've got to remember that you got to look at the practical side of the issue. But the more immediate thing to do is to educate, promote and remind everybody concerned, the employers and employees that they have to be careful when it comes to dealing with particularly windows in tall and high buildings, so pragmatic approach to the problem.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Sunday, September 25, 2016
Issued at HKT 22:03
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