MANILA - The issues of placement fees and other concerns of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong were among the subjects tackled during the meeting between Philippine labor and consulate officials and the Hong Kong Labor Department.

"Their discussion focused on the need to cooperate with each other in addressing the concerns of Filipino household service workers in Hong Kong, particularly on placement fee issues and workers' complaints against their employers," said DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

Labor Attache Manuel Roldan and Consul General Bernardita Casalla met with Commissioner Donald Tong, Deputy Commissioner Byron Ng, Assistant Commissioner Nicholas Chan, and Queenie Wong, a senior administrative office of the Hong Kong Labor Department.

In his report, Roldan explained to the Hong Kong Labor Department the Philippines' processes and procedures in hiring Filipino workers, emphasizing the government's 'no placement fee' policy, the process of accrediting Hong Kong-based employment agencies with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the responsibilities to the workers they hire.

Consul General Catalla raised the issue of the prevailing practice of Hong Kong-based agencies of collecting placement fees from workers, in violation of Hong Kong laws which allows only a service fee of 10 percent of a worker's first month's salary.

Roldan added, "Upon their arrival, they are brought by the agency to a Hong Kong lending company to sign a loan document specifying an amount that they had to pay through monthly installment of between five to seven months".

Workers are asked to pay through various 7-Eleveln branches. They are also made to open a bank account but are required to surrender their ATM cards to their agencies.

"The agencies give to the worker only the balance of their salaries after the amount of service fee for the month has been deducted," Roldan said.

To encourage more OFWs to actually file complaints against their employers and agencies, Catalla suggested that the Consulate--which is open on Sundays--accept the reports, summarize it and then forward it to the Hong Kong Labor Department.

Both parties were amenable to the case-referral system and recommended that this be the subject of further meetings.

"Through the case-referral system, the availability of OFWs to seek redress for their grievances and of Hong Kong authorities to hear them will no longer be an issue," said Baldoz.

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