Our Desk | On the continuous dismay of the vulnerable groups

Lynzy Valles

Groups of migrant workers’ associations have expressed dismay over the newly approved employment agency bill, as the Times reported yesterday.
These groups are the associations – representing a significant number of the community – that have long been submitting petition letters to government agencies including the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL).
Speaking to one of the presidents of one such association, I could sense her dismay towards the decision of the Legislative Assembly. She heavily emphasized that their most important concerns were not heard.
The United Nations’ International Labour Organization stipulates that no agency fee should be collected from workers, as cited in its Convention 181 on Private Employment Agencies, the Convention 189 Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families (1990).
Yet, since the Macau SAR is not a part of the organization, these conventions do not apply to Macau.
The newly amended bill which comes into effect in March next year was revised, I believe, in a bid to protect both employees and employers.
However, it seemed that the disappointment really came about not just because workers will still have to pay no more than 50% of the monthly income (as stipulated in the new law), but by how officials have refused to really listen and acknowledge their petitions.
I reckon the reason for them submitting a petition letter stating their seven key suggestions for the amendment of the agency bill was because current non-resident workers will also be affected by the bill but were not included in the public consultation.
Several groups of migrant workers gathered last year at DSAL, calling for a review of policies on domestic workers, including an outdated housing allowance, and requesting a review of the minimum wage proposal.
The gathering was the first time that Filipino and Indonesian migrant groups organized a meeting with an official government department – which took the some four months to finalize. With the preparations taking place over a period of 12 months, the group was still dissatisfied with the meeting.
Why? Probably because they never received concrete answers regarding significant concerns that largely matter and affect them – particularly domestic workers and non-skilled workers (Although in the city, getting official concrete answers – especially regarding these matters – would really take a while.)
One of the concerns in this meeting was setting a minimum wage for domestic helpers – an issue that up to now, is unsolved.
DSAL has only informed them that they could not set a minimum wage yet as they follow a certain market level for each industry and employer, given the wide range of salaries.
I would not even want to comment further on the salary issues of many domestic helpers in the city as it is still considered normal in the society for one to receive as little as 3,500 patacas monthly.
Anyway, this piece is mainly about how it has become so normal to overlook these members of society. It has become so normal that hearing stories of agencies requiring 18,000 patacas for placement fees is nothing new.
The vulnerable groups, particularly domestic helpers and those in low-paying jobs, have zero to little voice in the city. Therefore, many of them have joined associations to be seen and be part of the community.
However, the migrant associations that are supposed to be representing them and raising the concerns of the community to the government, are also being overlooked – judging from the outcome of the number of petitions they have submitted.

Categories Opinion