Building access to justice takes an entire village, one that goes from the frontlines to the whole world. Last year, JWB partnered with the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) and our funding partner the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO) to launch JWB x FADWU Case Team Training Program 2020-21. This 13-month mentorship programme equipped union leaders with key casework skills in providing legal support to migrant workers in need.
Jec Sernande is the Secretary of FADWU, and the Vice-Chairperson of FADWU member union the Progressive Labour Union of Domestic Workers – Hong Kong (PLUDW-HK). As the eldest child in his family, he carries the responsibility of being the main breadwinner. He does so as a full-time migrant domestic worker (MDW) with 15 years’ experience in Hong Kong, currently taking care of an elderly employer.
Jec has devoted all his free time to union work. He focuses on organizing different committees, recruiting new members, providing training on workers’ rights, meeting workers in the community and providing assistance to those in need.
“I have seen how unions can change the situation of migrant workers,” he explained. “[When things go wrong] if you’re in a union you can have the opportunity to be heard by the Labour Department and by Immigration.” FADWU successfully got international media attention when they helped COVID-positive MDWs becoming homeless fight for their rights. “That built awareness in the city, particularly for migrant workers here,” he added.
JWB supports FADWU and PLUDW-HK by providing much needed caseworker skills training. “It is very important to know how to handle workers’ legal cases and their issues properly,” Jec said when he discussed the partnership with JWB and the mentorship programme. “The programme not only provides knowledge in legal rights but also gives mentees opportunities to conduct real interviews with real clients and to learn the procedures of filing actual cases. This structured and practical approach gives mentees more confidence in handling cases properly,” he added.
Jec believes the mentorship programme is just the beginning, particularly for PLUDW-HK. “If the mentorship continues, we will have a lot more leaders who will have the same level of confidence to handle cases. If the union continues this education, it will really empower members to tackle the issues that many fellow workers are facing,” he said.
Moving forward, Jec believes the ultimate goal is to develop migrant workers skills and abilities not just for their work, but also as people. “We hope that someday we will achieve a better place, a better world, a better situation as migrant domestic workers,” he added.
As the oldest UN agency, the ILO has promoted decent work for over one hundred years. Unions like Jec’s are key stakeholders at the ILO.
In Hong Kong, JWB became an implementing partner of the ILO’s Fair Recruitment Initiative, which funded the mentorship programme for Jec’s unions.
“As part of the ILO Fair Recruitment Initiative, the ILO is committed to promoting fair recruitment practices amongst others through trade unions. The mentorship contributed to building the capacities of trade union members of FADWU to inform and support migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong,” said Clara Van Panhuys, Social Protection Officer at the ILO. “The partnership with JWB also connects unions with pro-bono legal services and other civil society actors supporting victims of sexual harassment and violence. FADWU members participated in a yearlong training and benefitted from tailor made case management toolkits.”
With the mentorship programme successfully completed, JWB and its partners are charting the next steps in growing frontline support for the city’s 350,000 domestic workers. Together with union partners and the ILO, JWB aims to help more union leaders grow into seasoned caseworkers.
By Chelsea Kiew, PR Fellow @JWB
The PowerUp Campaign features how JWB scales up its impact through building capacity with our allies. Our partners, including mentors, mentees, funders and frontline organization leaders, came together to share their experiences in our capacity building programs. We also look ahead to how we continue to scale up our impact to ensure that access to justice is as mobile as migrant workers.