RP THREATENS TO STOP SENDING MAIDS TO HK  

Manila, March 2, 2003 -- The Arroyo administration has threatened to stop sending Filipino maids to Hong Kong following the territory's decision to cut their minimum salaries.

Last Wednesday, Hong Kong announced it would propose a new tax and impose a pay cut that could amount to as much as HK$800 (US$100) per month for the territory's thousands of foreign domestic helpers.

The wage slash, which takes effect in April, would reduce the minimum monthly salary for foreign domestic workers, including 153,000 Filipinos, by HK$400 to HK$3,270. A HK$400 tax to be levied come October on the employers of domestic workers is also expected to be deducted from their pay packets.

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas told reporters: "We are looking into the possibility of not approving contracts that would provide salaries below HK$3,760."

The threat would depend on the Hong Kong government's response to Manila's appeals, she said yesterday.

"We will do this step by step and file a motion for reconsideration next week," Sto. Tomas added.

Labor Undersecretary Manuel Imson said the Philippine government feared Hong Kong employers would unilaterally terminate the contracts of their household workers in order to take advantage of the wage cut for new hires.

"We would not tolerate indiscriminate termination. We will ask for a report on this. Hong Kong employers are warned not to unjustly terminate their workers," Imson said. "Those who do this would be blacklisted and prevented from hiring workers again."

The Filipino maids in the prosperous Chinese special administrative region are part of a seven million-strong overseas work force of the Philippines that remit about $8 billion annually to the impoverished nation.

Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka also account for large numbers of the overseas workers in Hong Kong.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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