OFWS SUE HK OVER WAGE CUTS

Manila, April 3, 2003 -- The Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong, Vicky 
Bataclan, informed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during a 
teleconference yesterday that Filipino domestics have filed a case before 
the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) 
questioning the legality of the levy or wage cut imposed on foreign 
domestic workers by the HKSAR government.

Named respondents in the case filed yesterday, the day the wage cut took 
effect, were HKSAR chief executive in Council, the director of immigration 
and the Employees Retraining Board.

The case was filed by five Filipino and two Indonesian domestics, two 
migrant organizations and a Filipino lawyer residing in Hong Kong, who is 
an employer of a domestic worker.

The case is being handled pro bono by Massie and Clement Solicitors, and 
barristers Gerard McCoy SC (Queens Counsel), Philip Ross and Neil Thomson.

The case is seeking a court order to set aside and declare as illegal and 
unconstitutional the decision by the Chief Executive in Council on February 
25, 2003 to reduce the minimum allowable wage of domestics by HK$400 per 
month and impose a levy of HK$400 on the employers. The lawyers also are 
filing for damages, on behalf of the plaintiffs, for money wrongly 
expropriated by the HKSAR government.

The President earlier announced that the Philippine government will fully 
support Filipino workers in Hong Kong who will avail themselves of all 
possible mechanism to contest the levy or wage cut even as efforts of 
Philippine official will continue to explore all means possible in calling 
upon the sense of fair play of the Hong Kong government for it to 
reconsider the implementation of this discriminatory policy.

First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo visited Hong Kong recently and met 
with lawyers of Massie and Clement who have volunteered to assist and 
handle the case for free as an expression of their belief in the justness 
of the cause of the Filipino domestics.
The lawyers of the domestics claim that the decision of the HKSAR Chief 
Executive in Council imposing a wage cut is ultra vires (exceeded its 
authority) on technical grounds and based on "irrelevant consideration." 
They also said the levy on the employers is actually a tax imposed on the 
domestics which is illegal and unconstitutional.

It was noted that the HKSAR government made the decision imposing the levy 
and wage cut without the passage of a substantive law and therefore is 
without any legal effect. As the levy is a form of taxation, the 
Legislative Council should have approved the imposition of this tax as 
required by Article 73 (3) of the Hong Kong Basic Law, the lawyers of the 
domestics said. (Malacanang News Release)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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