Amid the shock at seeing scenes of foreign laborers attacking each other with sticks and bats, it finally hit some of us that foreign workers have snatched away the livelihood of many Aborigines in Taiwan.
Realizing that one of the social costs of importing foreign laborers is rampant unemployment among Aborigines, people are now concerned about the difficulties facing the large number of unemployed Aborigines. However, we, the Aboriginal community, do not feel the slightest joy at these sudden and unexpected demonstrations of concern.
In the past, the country's labor policy betrayed the Aboriginal workers because their wages were higher than those of foreign laborers. Mainstream public opinion today demonstrates the same short-sighted logic: Government officials and business management chip away at working conditions as much as possible, even if these conditions are essentially inhumane. Now the unemployment of Aborigines is used as a phony justification for failing to acknowledge the abuse of foreign laborers.
As much as we suffer over our unemployment, we feel even more deeply for the generally terrible working conditions facing foreign laborers and their pains from working overtime, as well as from mental depression, physical exhaustion and racial discrimination.
Taiwan must give serious thought to improving working conditions to raise the overall productivity and competitiveness of our economy. If it is unable to do so and, instead, continues to lower costs by exploiting regional differences in wages and human right conditions, then Aboriginal workers will forever remain mere pawns to be repeatedly appeased, then sold out.
Taiwan's labor policy has never considered the Aborigines as a community that should be evaluated independently. Therefore, it has not been able to effectively integrate the Aboriginal labor community into the general labor community. Aboriginal workers thus have been rewarded with the indignity of massive unemployment.
We want to communicate the following message to Taiwanese society: Taiwan, in its pursuit of an identity and role in the global economic structure, must draft a comprehensive blueprint for the Aboriginal work force and their living environment in order to raise the country's economic competitiveness.
To foreign laborers, we want to say that although you have been used to take away our livelihood, we still vow to protect your fundamental rights as laborers.
Ta Ya is the secretary-general of the Taiwan Aboriginal Labor Coalition.