CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 February 2019

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New hotline gets lukewarm reception

HONG KONG (SE): Responding to news of a new 24-hour hotline for foreign domestic workers operated by the Labour Department starting from December 19, a migrant group said it does not help them much in pursuing their labour concerns since the department’s offices are closed during their one-day-a-week off, when they it need most.
 
The new hotline provides advice to foreign domestic workers on their employment rights as well as responsibilities, and refers any requests for services related to labour matters to relevant divisions under the Labour Department or the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The hotline number is 2157 9537.
 
Operators who can speak Cantonese and English man the hotline. An interpretation service in seven languages: Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia, Thai, Nepali, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu is available from 8.00am to 10.00pm, from Monday to Sunday, excluding public holidays. 
 
Sringatin, chairperson of Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, said that the group welcomes the new hotline which provides translations in different languages, but a more considerate move for migrant workers would be making the services of the offices of the Labour Department available on Saturdays and Sundays, when the majority of migrant workers have their days off, and in different areas in Hong Kong.
 
“The new hotline does not mean any big improvement because it does not answer the need of foreign domestic workers who only have time during their holidays to make a complaint,” she said.
 
She explained that what the hotline does offer is the general information already available in leaflets or on websites. Moreover, she believes foreign domestic workers may not have the chance to make an enquiry phone call while they are living with their employers who may wonder what they are talking about.
 
She believes what migrant workers need is services on their holidays so that they can file complaints and receive advice in more detail, but the closure of offices on Sundays has, at present, discouraged them from doing so.
 
Sringatin hopes that the new hotline will be a beginning of more considerate services for migrant workers in the future.
 
Eman Villanueva, of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, was quoted in the December 19 edition of the South China Morning Post as welcoming the initiative.
 
However, he also urged the government to also consider keeping some offices under the Labour Department open on Sundays.

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