Wed, Apr 21, 2010 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Treated like garbage

They change your diapers, cook your food, push your wheelchairs and clean up after you.

They have labored in your factories, constructed your highways, built your high-speed railways and dug the tunnels of your MRT. They are now even supplying your men with wives and children.

As a result, they have died in your pressurized tunnels, lost fingers in your dangerous machines and been abused by their masters. These are the stories of the tens of thousands of Filipino, Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese workers without whom Taiwan would not be the place it is today.

And in return for their service, you pay them minimum wages, deduct enforced savings, confiscate their passports and limit their free days off. Well that is until now, as last week, with dismay, I read that even their minimum wage requirements, with the premier’s approval, are now being considered for possible abolishment.

And for what reason? I can see no other than the fact that they are powerless and voiceless foreigners from poor countries who are vulnerable to whatever violence and exploitation that Taiwan chooses to inflict upon them.

Take the example of the many home caregivers that I see in my daily life. These people are paid the minimum wage of just over NT$17,000 (US$540) for full-time, 24-hour care.

Allowing them one day off a week — which incidentally few actually receive — a few seconds with a calculator reveals that this amounts to somewhere in the region of NT$27 an hour! And now you want to cut it even further!

Even after 20 years in Taiwan, I continue to be stunned at how such draconian measures regularly rear their ugly head in this country. And then the country has the nerve to boast about its wonderful 5,000 years of culture.

If such blatant exploitative policies are the result of the culture that you are so proud of, then please keep this “Ugly Chinese” wisdom safely locked up in the museums of the world, as it has no place in the modern world.

But then I suppose someone has to pay for the reduction in corporate taxes that the present government is hell-bent on ramming through the legislature. So in true “Reverse Robin Hood” KMT style, let’s continue to take it from the most vulnerable amongst us. This 3 percent reduction of the corporate tax rate is nothing more than a tax on the poor that will allow us to look forward to even more reductions in social services, pensions, education, etc.

If, as I once read, we are to judge a society’s level of civilization by how it treats its most vulnerable members, then Taiwan is failing spectacularly. Taiwan’s migrant workers should be given medals and awards for what they have contributed to society here, not further reductions in barely subsistence-level wages — but then such actions show us just how far the present government is prepared to stoop to pay back its corporate masters.

KEVIN GALLAGHER

Hsinchu

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