A Filipino maid was cleaning the windows of her employer’s apartment in Tseung Kwan O when she lost her balance and fell to her death. The 35-year-old was the fourth helper in Hong Kong to have died washing windows this year alone.
Alex Vallespin, Philippines’ Vice-consul in Hong Kong, said he plans to ask the Hong Kong government to stop employers from forcing Filipino maids to clean skyscraper windows, according to South China Morning Post.
“It endangers the lives of the workers … we will request that it be excluded,” Vallespin was quoted as saying.
He said that he plans to state the request during the scheduled meeting with the Philippines’ labor secretary, Silvestre Bello, and his Hong Kong counterpart, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, on Friday.
Cheung’s spokesman told SCMP that the Hong Kong government values work safety and “all employees must ensure a safe working environment”.
“The Labour Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Council have all along been stepping up their publicity and educational efforts for both employers and employees to raise their awareness of the importance of occupational safety,” he said.
Meanwhile, Philippines’ Labour attache Jalilo Dela Torre, who will be assisting Secretary Bello during the Hong Kong visit, said that the ban on window-cleaning will not be part of the meeting’s agenda.
“The main purpose of his visit was to meet the Filipino community on Sunday,” Dela Torre reportedly said.
Earlier this month, a group of domestic workers in Hong Kong joined the protest to call for a ban on window-cleaning. The demonstrators marched from Chater Road in Central to the Labour Department in Wan Chai. They also demanded a pay rise, a limit on their working hours and a clear definition of “suitable accommodation”.
“Cleaning windows from the outside is not a domestic worker’s duty. It’s a responsibility of the building management … It’s necessary to have proper training and safety equipment to do that sort of job,” said Asian Migrants Coordinating Body spokesperson Eman Villanueva.
He also shared his own experience of window cleaning years ago: “I was working at a 2,000 sq ft flat and one side was facing the sea … I had half of my body hanging outside in order to clean the windows properly,” he said.