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Hong Kong cleaners exploited under outsourcing

Catholic labor rights campaigners seek government action

Hong Kong cleaners exploited under outsourcing

Many elderly people who work as cleaners in Hong Kong are exploited by employers. (ucanews.com photo)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

May 18, 2018

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Hong Kong's mostly elderly cleaners, some more than 80, are falling victim to government outsourcing of two-year contracts to companies employing them.

Ming, 70, was a cleaner in a public toilet. But he was forced to change companies four times in six years by an outsourcing requirement for 'the lowest bidder' to be chosen.

Contractors lower their bids by minimizing labor costs.

Ming said that in November last year his monthly salary was reduced from US$764 to US$662 and that such pay cuts are not uncommon.

Augustine Yu Siu-po, supervisor of the Catholic Church's Pastoral Centre for Workers in Hong Kong's New Territories told ucanews.com that companies fiddle contracts.

This included side-stepping an ordinance provision for workers in a company for a full two years to receive severance pay when businesses close.

"The majority of cleaners are unfamiliar with the labor laws and are afraid of fighting against their company, while outsourced companies are run or owned by retired civil servants who are very familiar with the Labor Ordinances, especially the loopholes," Yu said.

As a majority of cleaners are over 65 they are not required to join a provident fund and there is no universal retirement income protection scheme for cleaners.

They do have minimum wage protection, but rarely get a substantial raise.

Ming originally worked at a long-established company with an hourly rate more than one dollar higher than the minimum wage. However, after that company did not get a new contract, he had to find another employer.

Then he only received the minimum wage.

"The outsourced companies are often replaced," Ming told ucanews.com.

"We sign a new contract each time, so there is no way to accumulate seniority."

He also complained that some companies do not provide sick pay.

Lee Ngan Kwan, formation officer of the Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs, called on the government to ensure that workers such as cleaners are protected from abuses under outsourcing.

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