Travel

Agency union urges HK to lift travel ban for vaccinated FDHs

The agency union says HK families are ‘suffering’ because of the ban

One of Hong Kong’s
associations of employment agencies is pressing the government to allow a “travel
bubble” for fully vaccinated foreign domestic helpers from the Philippines and Indonesia so they can come and
start working for their waiting employers.

The Hong Kong Union of
Employment Agencies said in a press conference held earlier today, Jul 11, that
local families are suffering because of the ban imposed on travelers from the
two countries, both of which have been classified by the government as “extremely
high-risk” countries for Covid-19.

The ban on passenger
flights from the Philippines
was imposed on Apr 20 after a number of travelers from there tested positive on
arrival in Hong Kong. The ban on Indonesia took
effect only on Jun 25, in the wake of a number of passengers arriving from there
with the mutant strain of the coronavirus.

HKUEA chair Thomas Chan
said the union had been writing to Chief Executive Carrie Lam since April to
get the ban lifted for incoming FDHs but has yet to receive a reply.

Another union officer, Gilbert
Ho, said that a recent survey conducted recently by his group among their
clients found that around 1,000 domestic helpers are stranded in the Philippines and Indonesia due to the flight ban.

“With about three or four
associations in Hong Kong, we anticipate there are over 5,000 helpers who are
stranded since the suspension mechanism was in place from April for the Philippines and from June for Indonesia. These
numbers will just keep on increasing,” Ho said.

He said the number could
rise to 5,500 of or 6,000 next month since there are a lot of applications in
place. This situation has made the local market “very, very hot for domestic
helpers,” Ho said.

He said the HKUEA is
hoping the government will allow in helpers who have been vaccinated twice 14
days before departure, have tested negative for the virus no later than 72
hours before boarding, and test negative again on arrival test and during
quarantine.

He said that helpers have
to do a lot of paper work before they can even get the all-clear to leave for Hong Kong. During their long wait, other problems may
arise, such as when their employment visas expire.

Ho said many helpers are
now pushing their agencies in the Philippines
to get them to leave immediately, or they would go to other countries where
they are allowed in, like the Middle East.
That could lead to problems for employers who are willing to wait, and have
already paid the agency fees.

Due to the shortage of
workers now, many FDHs who are already in Hong Kong have become choosy, said
the union, preferring families with just a couple and a child, or better yet, a
childless couple.

On the other hand, some
employers have reportedly been wooing helpers on the streets or online with
more attractive salary offers than the $4,630 minimum pay.

Tony Chan says his helper left his family because she didn’t want to take care of their baby

Tony Chan, vice chairman
of HKUEA, complained that some workers do not realize the inconvenience they
cause a family with a baby when they leave their employers just because they
are allowed to process new employment contracts without having to go back to
their home countries.

Chan said he experienced
this himself, when a helper left their household because she found another
employer who didn’t have a baby.

Ho said it’s not just local
families who are affected by the pandemic-related travel restrictions. Since
the more stringent restrictions took effect last year, about 40% of the
estimated 800 agencies deploying workers from the Philippines
and Indonesia
have gone out of business.

He warned that more will
fold up if the flight ban continues. 

This content was originally published here.

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