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Organiser's Profile

Ah Foon of HKWWA

A 'Non-Organiser' Looking at Herself

It's almost eight years since I joined HKWWA, and I never have favour for the title of 'organiser'. Such identity keeps me away from other women workers. Worse still, it takes away my identity as an ordinary women worker and that I am just like many of them. To avoid these, I always remind myself I have to walk along with them, and that once I leave HKWWA, I will face the same problems as they do -- I am too old; I do not have any academic qualification; I will be kicked out of the labour market; I will be unemployed and fall into despair; I will be exploited.......

I try my best to put myself into their situation.

So many unforgettable feeling and despair in my relations with the women cleaners. They have made the biggest contribution to society. Yet, they are least valued. Think about the nasty work, the heavy workload and the little money and benefit they can get. They have to work over 10 hours a day, 365 days a year, even if they are injured or fall sick. If they really cannot make it, the only option for them is to get an extra hand out of their own pocket. They have to stretch themselves to the edge because they have no knowledge of the labour laws. Even if they do, they may not dare to bargain with the boss for fear of losing the 'precious' job. Shut up or starve!

Ah Foon
Many women are forced to take up part-time jobs as they have to take care of their kids. The cleaning job fits their schedule: their husband can stay with the kids at night while they go around 1,000-odd flats to clean up the garbage. What is supposed to be a 5-hour task is usually finished within 4 hours so that they can go home early. Guess how much they get a month? Just 1,000 bucks (about US$130)! Not even enough to pay the rent!

As the cleaners live in the same housing estate or even the same block where they work, the boss or supervisor finds it easy to squeeze every bit of them. They will, outside the working hours, call the women to clean up the leftovers, alleging that they receive complaints from the neighbourhood. A cleaner's husband once could not keep his anger and shouted to the supervisor on the phone, "What do you think it is? On call for the whole day for a pitiful stipend! She'll simply quit!" Well, well, how righteous! How assertive! Has he ever considered why his wife has to take up this kind of unbearable, nasty job?

To complicate matters, what is in question is not only the labour relationship; it is also a relationship between the cleaners and the residents, most of whom are also workers. Many of the residents are very inconsiderate, dumping rubbish and leaving dog shit around. When their neighbours complain to the cleaning company, the nasty job will ultimately fall onto the cleaners. Besides, some residents complain that the cleaners make the elevator stink because the rubbish is stinky. Wait a minute! Whose rubbish is that? At festival times, when people are enjoying their family reunion dinner, who are sweating all over in cleaning up the extra bulk? It is hurting to see people at the grassroots fighting against each other.

Another hard question is the use of illegal workers. Many blood suckers want to swell their wallet as much as possible by employing illegal workers who have come from China on two-way permits. Some cleaners have asked us to report to the police for them. They have tried themselves

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