Domestic workers in Hong Kong have called for the government to investigate and prosecute employment agencies that overcharge their clients, as will as preventing ill-treatment by employers.

More than 30 workers marched from Chater Garden in Central to Government Headquarters in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island on Sunday afternoon to publicize their demands for better protection of the rights of domestic workers, Oriental Daily reported.

The Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) said that although the government had amended the Employment Ordinance early this year to increase the maximum penalties for the offenses of overcharging commissions from job-seekers and the unlicensed operation of employment agencies, irregularities are still found.

A domestic worker named Urcia, who came to Hong Kong for the second time, said her agency required her to pay a fee of HK$6,700 (more than US$850). Hong Kong employment agencies are permitted to charge an amount not exceeding a sum equal to 10% of a maid’s first month’s wages. The current maximum is HK$452.

Urcia could only afford HK$1,500 at that time and the employment agency held her passport. After a long process of negotiation and with help from the labor union, she got her passport back.

Urcia criticized the agency as being unfair. She said domestic workers should be treated with dignity.

Another domestic worker named Hufana said her employer only offered her a bowl of congee or bread and coffee for breakfast, affecting her work performance as she didn’t get enough food.

She claimed she needed to purchase food with her own money.

She called on the government to protect domestic workers in Hong Kong better, creating a fair work environment for them.