Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wage War

A friend of mine has urged me to write about love. But there is a raging war in Hong Kong.

Within this month or maybe the next, the Hong Kong government will announce the results of its annual review of the minimum allowable wage or MAW of foreign maids. It's a yearly exercise that only god knows what process is used because it is as transparent as the pre-Lozada NBN-ZTE deal.

We've heard of how domestic workers here are abused, overworked and sometimes driven to desperation as shown by the reported suicide cases. But not much on the story of their wage.

There is a myth that foreign maid's salary in Hong Kong is one of the highest in the world. In fact, it was one of the arguments used by the venerable proponents of the wage cut on FDW's salary in 2003.

Back then, they used the wage level in Singapore and Malaysia as comparison. It was like comparing GMA to Estrada. Now that the wage is under review again, they are silent on the fact that compared with countries at par with Hong Kong’s economy like UK and Spain, FDW wage here is insignificant.

The current MAW is HK$3,480 a month. It has suffered two drastic wage cuts in the past decade – HK$190 in 1999 and HK$400 five years ago. For the past three years, it was increased by HK$50, then by HK$80 and then by another HK$80. Peanuts in relation to what has been shaved off.

This wage level is nominally equivalent to that in 1996. As if living standards have not changed since then. Even my favorite colorum restaurant has jacked off its regular meal by 25%.

It is no wonder then that wage is such a touchy topic for foreign maids.

More so now that everyone's burdened by price increases and drop in foreign exchange rates like in the Philippines. At only a little over Php 5 per HK dollar, many are forced to look for part time jobs – which is of course illegal – just to augment their remittance to their families.

So right now, everyone’s on their toes. The May First march had the wage issue as a main call. It was fantastic show of force by thousands of FDWs who joined local trade unions.

Some of the pics:

The wage campaign is a matter of survival. It is a matter of dignifying domestic worker's work. It is a matter of giving justice to one of the most neglected, abused and exploited sectors of the working people.

Though this may not be a post about love, somehow, I feel like this still is

PS: Alright. I will post about love soon. If he says yes.


gibo said...

war talaga ito. kahit saan talaga, binabarat ang mga manggagawa.

can't wait for the love post. ching!

ian said...

it's nice that you post these kind of entries as it creates awareness. there's more to life than mere "kilig", new shoes and new restos to try. hope hk will hear the plea of foreign domestic workers.

....but still looking forward to your "love post" hahaha

Gayzha said...

Is there anything we can do to help our DH in HK? Hope they get the salaries they deserve for years now.

Lyka Bergen said...

Activism before Love? Or Activism equals Love? Hmmmmm.....

wanderingcommuter said...

ito ang tinatawag na love in the time of a wage war

carl said...

that's just so sad. but sometimes we have to take drastic measures to attain results.



sana mag yes si he....

tsismoso talaga ako.

chase / chubz said...

grabe naman..
kawawa man. ang hirap ng trabaho dapat taasan pa man