In Hong Kong, there have been several unfortunate but avoidable cases of foreign domestic workers falling from windows that they had been tasked to clean. In 2016 alone, an alarming number of Filipino and Indonesian domestic helpers fell to their deaths as they were cleaning windows outside high rise flats.
Various civic rights groups supported by the Philippine government proposed a total ban on window cleaning tasks for helpers. As a response, the Hong Kong government amended policies in order to protect the helpers from any such accidents. The amendments stated that:
- Only windows with locked or secured grilles can be cleaned by Helpers, unless the windows are on the ground level, or next to a balcony or corridor; and
- No part of their body will be extended outside the window beyond the ledge except their arms.
The amendments took effect on Jan 1, 2017. However, not all employers chose to follow the new policies.
A Filipina domestic helper by the name of Nerie R. Mier recently sued her female employer for allegedly forcing her to clean the outside windows of her employer’s flat. The flat is located on the 19th floor of a high rise building.
Mier refused to do the task, but said that she “had no choice because [she was] afraid that [she] will be terminated” by her employers. The incident happened on Feb 19.
“I [was] afraid so I resisted… because I [was] not feeling well and felt so dizzy. I told her of my feeling but she insisted,” Mier said in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Mier stated that she has video evidence of her cleaning the window. She said her family can refer to the video if the worst happens to her.
The employers terminated her contract on Feb 26, just a few days after the window-cleaning incident.
Although employers would not face criminal charges for violating the policy, Mier’s employers still violated contract agreements.
“I [had] no choice because I [was] still new and I [was] afraid that I will be terminated that early…” Mier said in the report. “I [was] afraid so I resisted… because I [was] not feeling well and felt so dizzy. I told her of my feeling but she insisted.”
Mier’s case is scheduled for June 21. It was reported that her employer failed to show up during the previous hearing at Hong Kong’s Labour Tribunal./TISG