A number of Filipino domestic workers recently arrived in Hong Kong have complained to the Philippine Consulate about local employment agencies and their counterparts in the Philippines getting them to take loans from financing companies.

At least 19 domestic workers said they suspected collusion between Philippine agencies and their Hong Kong partners, the sunwebhk.com reported.

The workers, who arrived from Manila in recent months, told the consulate on July 29 they had received letters of demand from a moneylender named Mutual Honour (Hong Kong) Ltd, a Tai Po-based company.

The alleged scam reportedly involves requiring Hong Kong-bound domestic workers to sign a loan agreement for PHP16,000 (US$302) in Manila with a company based in Hong Kong before the leave.

But on arrival in Hong Kong, the workers learned they have to pay the partner agency in Hong Kong. They were told to pay back the loan through 7/11 outlets using a payment account already set up while the workers were still in Manila.

But instead of the PHP16,000 loan they have to repay, the figure was converted to HK$2,936 (US$374) payable in two monthly installments of $1,469 each – a total of PHP19,671 at current exchange rates,  a 22% mark-up.

The payment to the partner agency in Hong Kong was supposedly for “further training” the workers say never materialized. According to Hong Kong’s labor laws, an agency may charge a commission of no more than 10% of the worker’s first monthly salary, which in this case should be HK$441 (US$56).

The workers claim the loan was on top of other illegal fees reportedly collected from them in the Philippines. In one case, a maid said she paid PHP60,000 to an agency in Manila and the another PHP25,000 training fee for a Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA) certificate.

Two others said an agency in Cebu charged them PHP25,000 for training and other fees, but they were charged the same fee again in the Manila office of the same agency.

Labor Attaché Nida Romulo, the head of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, contacted one of the agencies and called for a meeting on August 5. She said the labor office will have to check how many workers have been affected and they will summon the agencies involved.

The workers named the Philippine agencies as iEmploy Manpower Services, Infinity Manpower Services and MIP International Manpower Services. Their partner agencies in Hong Kong are Pacific Jet Consultants, Sacred Heart Consultant Inc and Waytech Consultants.