Dealing with difficulty, distress and danger
Jazilatu Nasifah’s story is a series of struggles to save her job amidst the difficulties and dangers of domestic work. It also depicts the slave-like working conditions that a domestic worker endures in the hope of a better economic life for her family back home.
It was in 2007 that she got her first employment in Hong Kong where she worked for a couple and one child. Her working day started at six o’clock in the morning and ended at ten o’clock at night. Although the salary she signed in her employment contract was for 3.480 HKD, she only received 2.000 HKD. From this amount she needed to pay monthly 1,879 HKD for agency fee; thus in the first 7 month she only had 11 dollars per month to survive.
Jazilatu tried to raise this concern with her employer aside from having only one day off a month. But her female employer made a threat that if she insist to claim the standard minimum allowable wage and weekly day off, the employer would report to the police that she was a bad worker so she would be sent back to Indonesia and could never come back to work in HK. The threat of losing her job pushed Jazilatu to keep silent until the end of her contract in 2009.
But worse things happened during the two-year period. From day one, Jazilatu witnessed her employers’ fights. This turned scary for her on the third day when the wife hit the head of her husband with a plate. A neighbor called the police who later asked Jazilatu to testify and give information about the situation. Keeping her employer’s threats in mind, Jazilatu said nothing. Besides, she couldn’t express herself well in Cantonese and English at the time.
To make matters worse, after that incident the male employer slept in the same room with Jazilatu in the upper deck and the male employer in the lower deck of the bed. Even if her male employer told her that he would not do anything to harm her, she still felt unsafe. The plea of her ward “Che-che please don’t leave me, I feel alone here, only you care for me, please don’t leave me,” kept her strong.
In 2010 Jazilatu found another employment where she took care of one child. After a year, the male employer was diagnosed with renal failure. The employer asked her if she could donate one of her kidneys for her employer. Jazilatu refused. But the employer pestered her daily with the same question and tried to convince her with the argument that the money would greatly help her family. Feeling harassed all the time, Jazilatu she decided to terminate her contract.
The third employer that she got in 2011 passed away after working for the family for only eight months. She decided to go home to Indonesia where she got married and had a son. At the start she found that she was in a better economic situation. But after four years Jazilatu decided to go back to Hong Kong because her husband had no stable job to support their family and provide education for their son.
Upon her return in HK, Jazilatu was told to stay in the agency for three days to undergo medical examination and pick up her HK ID. Alas, the medical results revealed that she was pregnant. The agency staff informed her that she cannot take up employment and immediately, the employment contract was cancelled.
Under this condition, Jazilatu met a fellow Indonesian domestic worker who referred her to the Mission For Migrant Workers for assistance. She learned that she was entitled to maternity protection under the Employment Ordinance of Hong Kong.
However, the agency never allowed her to meet her employer. Instead, she was asked to pay for her air ticket to go back to Indonesia. Jazilatu stayed at the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge in order to pursue her labour claims against the agency and the employer. In the end, she was able to get 5,050 HKD.
Getting pregnant was not in her plans, according to Jazilatu, but she is happy to have another baby. She hopes that something good will turn out for her family.