Hong Kong’s domestic worker unions are the first line of support for workers who face exploitation or abuse. With a community of over 360,000 in the city, helping every one who needs help can prove challenging.
Justice Without Borders has partnered with the Federation of Asian Domestic Worker Unions (FADWU) to develop their members’ case management skills to better handle the high volume of cases they regularly handle. The work goes beyond trainings to long-term membership, aimed at expanding the pool of expert case managers who can identify potential legal issues and act on them rapidly.
With funding from the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), JWB organized a 7 month training project for 20 members of FADWU’s newly formed case team. The project ran from February to August 2019, and consisted of tailor-made training sessions and legal clinics for FADWU’s Hong Kong-based caseworkers ─ members of the migrant domestic worker community who spend their free time identifying potential cases and bringing them to frontline NGOs or JWB.
“We believe that caseworkers are in an ideal position to identify potential cases, as they themselves are part of the community of domestic workers. By training our caseworkers on migrant domestic worker rights and common employment law violations, they would be able to actively help their own community by spreading that knowledge and finding more cases that can potentially be referred to JWB for further action,” said Justine Lam, Head of JWB in Hong Kong.
Casework Training Sessions & Legal Clinics
The major components of the training project included 2 caseworker training sessions (held on 17th and 24th February 2019) and 2 legal clinics (held on 21st July and 11th August 2019). While the casework training sessions covered Hong Kong labour laws and provided opportunities for caseworkers to practice their new skills via case studies, the legal clinics focused on client interviewing skills. The trainees started with role-playing exercises before quickly advancing to actual client interviews where they carried out case intake and gave advice on evidence collection strategies.
Over the March – June 2019 period, JWB also facilitated multiple follow-ups with the caseworkers on their outreach initiatives and client meetings. This gave the caseworkers confidence as they navigated through the client interviews.
Turning from Good Outcomes to Long-Term Support
At the end of the training project, there was very encouraging feedback from both participants and trainers alike. It was heartening to see how the caseworkers were eager to improve and learn new skills. JWB volunteer lawyers who were invited to observe and assess the caseworkers’ interviewing skills also gave largely positive comments, with only minor areas for improvement.
Having gathered and trained a group of FADWU caseworkers to work in tandem with JWB, we will next develop their paralegal abilities, with a view to enabling them to acquire the expertise and knowledge needed in reaching beyond the client interview stage, to more challenging tasks such as accompanying our clients to Labour Department meetings or conciliation meetings at the Equal Opportunities Commission. In the long run, we hope that these competent caseworkers will be able to directly represent clients before Hong Kong’s Labour and Small Claims tribunals.
JWB would like to sincerely thank FADWU, the ILO, our volunteer lawyers, and our caseworkers for making this training project a success.