26 FEB 2020
Oxfam Response to HKSAR Government’s ‘Anti-epidemic Fund’
The HKSAR Government announced its Budget Speech on 26 February, and provided supplementary information about the financial support it would provide frontline workers through the ‘Anti-epidemic Fund’. However, Oxfam Hong Kong (OHK) believes these measures are not enough to give immediate protection to frontline workers. Through ‘Survey on Outsourced Workers and Their Working Conditions Amidst COVID-19’ (Chinese only), OHK and its partners found that 30 per cent of cleaners said their companies did not provide them with masks for two weeks. The findings were announced at a joint press conference on 18 February.
Through the ‘Anti-epidemic Fund’, each eligible cleaners/security workers will be given a monthly ‘hardship allowance’ of HK$1,000 for four months (i.e. HK$4,000 per worker), subject to a cap of six headcounts of hardship allowance per building block. The ‘hardship allowance’ will also be given to government-outsourced cleaners and security guards to enable them to better maintain public and personal hygiene, and to recognise their efforts. Although the provision of this subsidy and these resources are crucial to frontline workers, OHK doubts whether workers can successfully purchase protective equipment given the serious shortage in stock and soaring prices. OHK urges the HKSAR Government to provide enough protective equipment and supplies (especially surgical face masks) to all outsourced government cleaners, who alone would need at least up to 1.3 million per month.
Another policy loophole is that the ‘Anti-epidemic Fund’ will not benefit the 5,300 ‘three-nil buildings’, which do not have owners' corporations or any form of residents' organisations, or do not utilise the services of property management companies. OHK urges the government to plug this loophole and strengthen protection for all cleaners.
Click below to learn more about outsourced government cleaners’ working conditions amidst the epidemic: