Migrant workers seek fair treatment

Monday, May 9, 2011
Issue 1302, Page 7
Word count: 662
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Filipino and Indonesian non-resident workers urged for fair treatment and the abolishment of “anti-migrant policies” in the territory during their Labour Day activity yesterday.

The Alliance of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Macau (PEMACU) and Migrante Macau jointly held a forum called ‘Our Lessons in the Past and How We Can Resist the Present Anti-Migrant Policies in Macau’ at the Caritas Library.

Chairperson of Migrants Macau, Catalina Yamat, told the Macau Daily Times on the sidelines of the event that they regarded the six-month entry ban, the lack of automatic visa extension following contract termination and “unjustified police interrogation and detention of non-resident workers on their days off” as negative SAR Government policies against imported labour.

On March 5, a number of migrant workers were taken away by police from San Ma Lou and Yamat said they were detained for “a long time” despite they had presented their valid work permits (blue cards) or visas to police.

Other non-resident workers in the Three Lamps District were also “consistently harassed by police officers” who sometimes even brought along police dogs, the associations stated.

“Local people think we’re taking away their jobs, but it’s not true because we’re doing the jobs [domestic helpers] that they don’t want to do,” Yamat told the MDTimes.

“We want to be united and friends with local people,” she added.

Having lived and worked in Macau since 2003, Yamat said that “not all local people are friendly to migrant workers”.

Even recruitment agencies in the territory she said, are treating Indonesian and Filipino workers differently.

“The agencies will charge an Indonesian migrant worker eight to 12 months of salary as commission and hold their passports until their employment contract is terminated, but for Filipino workers the agencies will only charge MOP 4,000 to MOP 6,000 and won’t take away our passports.”

Yamat, a domestic helper, works nine hours a day from Mondays to Saturdays and earns MOP 2,500 a month in addition to the MOP 500 housing allowance.

With living costs continuing to rise, she said life is getting increasingly hard and she hopes that if the Macau Government is going to implement the minimum wage system, imported workers can be protected as well.

Eman Villanueva, secretary-general of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Migrante-HK), was invited to deliver a speech at the forum. He agreed with the importance of a minimum wage but has called on the Macau Government not to follow its Hong Kong counterparts to exclude imported domestic workers from the system.

“The legislation [in Hong Kong] is very discriminatory and has defeated the logic of having a minimum wage which is supposedly for all workers,” Villanueva told reporters.

“In developed countries such as Canada and the US, migrant workers are included in the minimum wage legislation both at the international and the state levels. There’s no reason why places like Macau should exclude migrant workers,” he said.

According to Villanueva, the Hong Kong Government is going to face a legal challenge as migrant domestic workers will file a judicial review in court to overthrow the decision of excluding them in minimum wage legislation.

“We hope that Macau can look at the issue objectively and as a huge issue of human rights as well,” he said.

“Migrant workers should not be treated as second or third-class citizens but should be treated fairly. We don’t expect special treatment, we’re just asking for fair and equal treatment,” he added.

Director of the Labour Affairs Bureau Shuen Ka Hung said recently that the six-month entry ban on imported labour may be removed depending on the results of the International Labour Organization’s conference in Geneva in June. Villanueva will be attending the conference and he said it’s not necessary for the Macau Government to wait for the conference and that “it can act at any time as long as it agrees that local and foreign workers should be treated fairly”.

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