In this month’s report, I am going to share 2 things which are not concerns for too many Taiwanese. The first is an introduction of an Indonesian Migrants group, and the second is International Labour Organization Convention 189.
1. Indonesian Migrants grassroots group –PILAR
This month, the APMM office welcomed 6 summer interns from 3 universities. I was in charge of taking 3 of them to Victoria Park to visit one Indonesian Migrants group-PILAR (it is an abbreviation in Bahasa, meaning ‘United Indonesians Against Overcharging’). Last Sunday was PILAR’s monthly meeting, and there were around 20 members from its alliance groups. It was different from my own experiences of an ‘official meeting’, in which people should wear formal dress and sit down beside a round table in a room with air-con. Plus, they should be served coffee or tea. On the contrary, at Victoria Park, everything was different: the weather was a bit humid, and there was no air-con, only a light breeze from Victoria Port. All PILAR members, as in Indonesian culture, sat down on the ground and spoke Bahasa while sharing several home dishes with each other. Before PILAR’s meeting, some members had just finished another meeting for a dance group. It was an ordinary busy Sunday for migrants.
PILAR is the main Indonesian Migrants Alliance in Hong Kong. Ms. Ren is an activist, one of PILAR’s alliance leaders. She explained to us the main achievements of PILAR. This alliance has several main projects, such as campaigning against over-charging administrative fees (21,000 HKD every oversea workers from Indonesia should pay to agency if they need apply a job every time), asking for direct hiring, and fighting for domestic workers’ fundamental rights (ILO C 189). There are thirty-three organizations that have joined PILAR, some are cultural groups (traditional Indonesian dance, hip-hop dance group), others are Muslim (such as GAMMI, whose members are Muslims that worship together every Sunday).
Speaking on financial issues, Ren explained that even if the Indonesian Consulate would like to support their cultural events, it is better to say no to them. ‘I often reject and ask them to donate to the migrant workers’ shelter (Bethune House). I believe it is better, because once PILAR accepts money from our government, they might force us not to organize protest rallies.’
Membership fees are part of the main income for PILAR. Ms. Ren said that each PILAR alliance has to pay 20 HKD (80 NTD) for membership fees in the beginning, and after 1 year, they have to pay 10 HKD per month to PILAR.
According to Ms. Ren, PILAR is not a union, it is an alliance. I am not sure what the different between union and alliance is. For me both of them have the same concepts: they are created by people at the grassroots level who have different backgrounds but the same achievements and demands; both organizations are equal; and the main reason for them to join PILAR is that they have the same requests to voice to the Indonesian government (to fix up the overcharging of agency fees instead of doing something unfair and inappropriate for Indonesian overseas foreigner workers).
Since February, to show their determination, PILAR members have been to the Indonesian consulate’s main gate on Sundays. They have made announcements to their government to stop overcharging agency fees and start a direct hiring policy.
It seems their government insists on not changing its decision and there is still a long way to go for Indonesian migrants. But there is no choice, they have to be strength and keep moving on.
2. ILO C189
After visiting Vitoria Park, we took the MTR to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (香港理工大學) to attend a conference: ‘Practice of human trafficking and forced labour in Hong Kong-The known and unknown situation of Indonesian Migrant workers forum’.
This conference was organized by IMUM (印尼移工聯盟) and HKCTU (香港職工盟). It 3was organized to present research on the Indonesian migrants’ situation in Hong Kong, and also had a sharing of the ideas of ILO C189 by an ILO officer from its headquarter in Switzerland.
What is ILO C189?
ILO C189 (國際勞工組織家務勞工公約), also called ‘C189’, is an ILO (International Labour Organization) convention, which confirmed that domestic workers have the same basic rights as all other workers. In 2006, several international domestic worker organizations started the ILO C189 Campaign. In 2011, after the International Labour Conference, the ILO officially recommended that government bodies should ratify ILO C189.
So, what is the definition of this ILO convention? According IDWN news, ‘C189 applies to anyone who is employed to do domestic work in the private home of someone else, whether that is cleaning, washing, cooking, taking care of children, or elderly or sick members of a family, gardening, guarding the house, driving the family, etc.’TheInternational Labour Organization now officially recongnizes domestic workers as equal to any other wage earners.
To be honest, I am not familiar with this topic, but it sounds that ILO C189 is a hot issue for migrant groups, sending countries, and receiving countries. The good news is that one of the major export labour countries, the Philippines, has signed it. On the other hand, several sending countries’ governments are not rising to speak about this convention. It is one of the main objectives for domestic helper groups to call other sending countries’ attention to ILO C189.
The receiving countries’ attitudes are key elements in assisting domestic workers. Without support from labour importing countries for this convention, ILO C189 might be insufficient. So figuring out how to raise Hong Kongers’ awareness of C189 is another lesson these migrant groups need to understand.
Working with APMM, I have learned how to form linkages with many organizations, from the international level to the grassroots. I have 7 co-workers to work with in a small office, and each one of them has 1-3 programs. For me, it has definitely opened my mind and revised my conception that ‘regional/ international NGOs’ should have many employees.
Being Taiwanese, I should say there are so many issues that have happened in Hong Kong that are very similar in Taiwan. Migrants’ issues and human rights are highly revelant with Taiwanese people, but it is a pity that my people do not really concern themselves with what happens in the world.
To sum up, this month I learned from migrant grassroots organizations and PILAR, and about the international level through ILO C189. Hopefully, I can share with Taiwanese people what I have learned through APMM, and try my best to raise people’s awareness of migrants’ issues in my country.
1. IDWN news, October 2011
2. HKCTU: http://www.hkctu.org.hk/cms/index.jsp