Transcript of remarks by SLW on window-cleaning duty of foreign domestic helpers
Secretary for Labour and Welfare: The Labour Department convened the meeting with all the Consul-Generals in Hong Kong involved in providing foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand as well as other South Asian countries. They had a very useful discussion. And in fact consensus reached on striking a balance between the interests of the helpers themselves, i.e. the occupational safety which is something that we cannot compromise, and at the same time we have to be mindful of the interests of employers as well. So on that basis, they have agreed that only when the situation is safe, can window cleaning be undertaken by the helpers concerned. Specifically the understanding is, say for example if it is cleaning the exterior of windows at ground floor, and also for the exterior of windows where you got corridors outside, or with safe balconies outside, then these are okay. And as far as other windows are concerned, they have got to have grilles fitted. So they have grilles fitted (to the windows) and also ensured that the helper cannot extend the body outside of the grille (except the arm) so as to ensure the safety of the helper. But at the same time, when window cleaning takes place, particularly when windows fitted with grilles are concerned, we require an adult or representative of their employers to be present in case there is anything that they need to help the helpers. So we are talking about providing really a safe environment, which is after all the responsibility of employers. At the same time, this will also ensure the interests of the employees and the employers as well. They will have the service of domestic helpers in cleaning windows in safe conditions. So, we expect this to be taken further forward and the Labour Department will consult employer groups and also employee associations next week with a view to wrapping up the whole thing. Our intention is to include a new clause in the Standard Employment Contract issued by the Hong Kong Government. So, it is actually a government-led exercise in including a new clause in the agreement. We expect this to take a little time to implement because the printing of the forms will take a little time, but we will try to expedite to ensure the interests of everybody. In the meantime, we have got about 347 000 helpers in Hong Kong already. We will also be mounting a major publicity campaign very shortly. First of all, we will produce an Announcement in the Public Interest on TV and radio, particularly highlighting the do’s and don'ts of window cleaning when it comes to safety and also the obligations of both sides. At the same time, the Labour Department already has a special website (www.fdh.labour.gov.hk), tailor-made for helpers in Hong Kong in, for example, Tagalog, Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia), and also Thai language as well. So we will also be using this platform to educate helpers, and also for newcomers in Hong Kong. They normally go through the welcoming programme at the Consulates of the Philippines and Indonesia. Already, the Labour Department has been providing officers to provide briefings since two years ago. We will include occupational safety as part of the theme of the educational programme. So we are approaching the problem on all fronts to ensure the work safety of all helpers, at the same time to strike a balance between their safety and the interests of employers in general.
Reporter: Is there any timetable for the regulation?
Secretary for Labour and Welfare: We expect it to be rolled out before long. We will actually consult the employer groups and also the labour unions. And also, as I said, it takes time to print the forms, because we are talking about security printing, we are talking about Standard Employment Contract, and they are serialised in number. So we expect the whole thing will take several weeks’ time at least but we will expedite the whole thing and roll it out as quickly as possible.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Saturday, October 29, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:45
Issued at HKT 15:45