A residential building in Yau Ma Tei has attempted to ban domestic worker residents from its clubhouse as their presence may ‘induce nuisance’ and affect the rights of other residents on Sundays. The sign was posted by management company Hong Yip Service Company (owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties) at their ‘No.8 The Waterloo‘ development. It told residents not to allow their helpers to use access cards during their holidays. However, domestic workers are themselves residents and – by law – have no choice but to live with their employers in the building.
News of the policy emerged after a local resident complained to a local NGO. Asking to remain anonymous, he said “To categorise a group of people as a ‘nuisance’ based on their occupation is absolutely disgusting… What is the difference between a crowd of domestic helpers and a crowd of people who are not?” Although he said understood that having groups of visitors in the clubhouse may be undesirable, he noted that helpers have little place to go on their day off owing to their meagre salaries.
The Equal Opportunities Commission has responded, saying that companies may discriminate on grounds of behaviour but not along broader lines such as race… “…it is unlawful for a service provider to refuse to provide goods, services or facilities on the ground of a person’s race. The EOC believes that all individuals should be treated with respect and dignity… In the case of the clubhouse, we believe that it is the behaviours that cause nuisance to other residents that have to be handled.”
A spokesperson for local NGO Helpers for Domestic Helpers said “The notice may not be racist but to single out domestic workers and suggest that they are the only ones that cause nuisance is clearly discriminatory. If it’s the behaviour of some people that is the issue then it should be addressed directly instead of banning an entire class of workers. That the EOC believes the management company’s action is justified is a cause for concern.”
On Wednesday, the company responded to a query by hongwrong.com saying they have now removed the notice and referred the issue back to the Owner’s Committee for discussion. Site manager Erin Yin Tak Keun said, “No discrimination whatsoever against any minority group was intended… The notice was just an attempt to eliminate the reported nuisance made to the Clubhouse users”.
HK Helpers Campaign will follow up with the building’s management about the upcoming meeting.