Domestic workers in Mong Kok, Kowloon. Photo: Asia Times
Domestic workers in Mong Kok, Kowloon. Photo: Asia Times

A Sri Lankan domestic worker who claims to be owed HK$65,000 (more than US$8,300) in unpaid salary by a Hong Kong woman she worked for from 2001 to 2005 has failed to be reimbursed.

Sasikala, now 43, returned to Hong Kong in July after being away for 12 years, and now works for a different employer. She renewed her efforts to get her former employer to pay what she owes her, but to no avail, Apple Daily reported.

Sasikala first came to Hong Kong in 2001 and became a domestic worker for a contracted salary of HK$3,670 a month. However, her employer only paid her bit by bit, “sometimes HK$500 or HK$200 in cash,” she said.

By the time she completed her first two-year contract, she was owed HK$42,000 in unpaid wages.

Sasikala admitted that her boss did not mistreat her. The woman would would take her out for dinner, and buy her clothes, and they got along like family. Thus she agreed to continue working for the woman and signed a second two-year contract, hoping the salary issue would be sorted out.

However, when the second contract finished at the end of 2005, the salary arrears had accumulated to HK$88,000. The woman told Sasikala to be patient, and if she continued to work for her, she would get her money eventually.

However, the Immigration Department refused to let the woman rehire Sasikala as her own income was too low to qualify to apply for the right to employ a domestic worker.

Sasikala claimed that during the four years she worked for the woman, she was not allow to go out alone and had no money, no friends, and no phone. She did not know how to ask for help.

In December 2005, her employer agreed to take her to the Hong Kong Labor Department to settle the unpaid-salary issue. A document was signed in which she agreed to pay Sasikala HK$78,480 by February 15, 2006. Sasikala was given permission to stay in Hong Kong until April 2006.

However, by the end of March that year, she had only been paid HK$3,000. Sasikala said she couldn’t stand the stress and attempted suicide.

In the end, her former employer agreed to pay her HK$30,000 and bought her an air ticket back to Sri Lanka, also signing an acknowledgment of debt, promising she would clear the outstanding amount in two months.

But when Sasikala arrived at the Hong Kong airport in April to head back home, the woman only paid her HK$10,000. Since then, she has not received any money from her, and lost contact with her after returning to Sri Lanka.

Sasikala still has the documents signed by her former employer and issued by the Labor Department verifying that she is still owed HK$65,000 in unpaid salary.

After returning to Hong Kong this year to work for a new employer, Sasikala tried to contact her former boas but the woman refused to meet with her.

When she sought help from a local labor group, Sasikala was told that because of the Limitation Ordinance, a civil action must be instituted within six years.

Thus the only thing left for Sasikala to do was to tell her story, urging domestic workers to seek help immediately if their employers exploit them.

2 replies on “Domestic worker fails to reclaim unpaid wages”

Comments are closed.