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Phillipines to Sue Hong Kong Over Cut in Minimum Pay for Migrant Domestic Workers - 2003-03-09


The Philippine government plans to sue the Hong Kong government for cutting the minimum pay of migrant domestic workers. More than 100,000 Philippine migrants work as maids in Hong Kong, and will be affected by the wage cut.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says her government "will sue the Hong Kong government in the Hong Kong courts."

Ms. Arroyo is angry over a Hong Kong government move to impose an 11-percent cut in the minimum wage for migrant domestic helpers. A presidential spokesman says a lawsuit will officially register Manila's displeasure and could possibly force Hong Kong to repeal the cut.

The Hong Kong government has not commented on President Arroyo's announcement.

Starting April 1, wages for foreign maids in Hong Kong will be cut by $51, to $419. The government also has imposed a fee of $51 a month for employers who hire foreign maids.

Eman Villanueva is the secretary general of United Filipinos in Hong Kong. He said his group is already looking into taking legal action against the Hong Kong government, but is not happy with Ms. Arroyo's approach. "We are cooperating with lawyers in Hong Kong who are volunteering to provide their services for free. We are in the process of researching further what are the grounds that can be used to sue the Hong Kong government," he said. "I think that is the difference between us and the Philippine president, they are already announcing to sue the Hong Kong government without first knowing how."

He also said Ms. Arroyo's decision last week to temporarily bar Philippine citizens from migrating to Hong Kong to work will only hurt migrants. He said it will not influence the Hong Kong government's policy.

Migrant workers in Hong Kong have led street demonstrations protesting the reduction, which they argue is arbitrary and targets one of the city's poorest groups.

Some Hong Kong lawmakers support the wage cut because salaries in many industries in the city have fallen during a prolonged economic downturn.

Approximately 240,000 migrants work as maids in Hong Kong households. More than half of them are from the Philippines.

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