THE PHILIPPINE government wants employers in Hong Kong to stop forcing Filipino domestic workers to clean windows, following several reports of maids plunging to their deaths from high-rise buildings this year.
According to the South China Morning Post, Vice-consul Alex Vallespin revealed plans by the Philippines to request the government of the semi-autonomous region to take washing windows off the duty list of the city’s estimated 180,000 Filipino maids.
“It endangers the lives of the workers … we will request that it be excluded,” Vallespin was quoted saying.
Vallespin reportedly said this ahead of his expected to meet Friday between the Philippines’ labor minister Silvestre Bello and his Hong Kong counterpart Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.
It is not immediately known what the agenda of the meeting is but according to Vallespin, his consulate holds regular talks with the Labour Department, and the request will be made.
Citing information from domestic workers’ groups, SCMP said about four workers have died this year after tumbling off high-rises. Last month, a 35-year-old Filipina fell to her death in Tseung Kwan O while cleaning the windows of a flat, according to the English-language daily.
An AFP report earlier this month said that a protest was held in Hong Kong, known as the city of skyscrapers, by domestic workers calling for an end to their window-cleaning duties.
The protest reportedly saw the workers marching in central Hong Kong yelling, “We are workers, not slaves!”.
A spokeswoman from the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body said in the report that workers find it difficult to say no when they are asked by their employers to do something.
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“But it’s scary. It’s about time for the government to protect the workers,” Dolores Balladares was quoted saying.
In SCMP’s report Friday, another spokesman from the body, Eman Villanueva, said he personally experienced the dangers of window cleaning several years ago.
“I was working at a 2,000 sq ft flat and one side was facing the sea … I had half of my body hanging outside in order to clean the windows properly,” he was quoted saying.