Fri, Jun 30, 2017 - Page 8 News List


An effective labor law

The “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” change to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) remains contentious to this day.

When the Democratic Progressive Party came to power, it decided to abolish seven national holidays and push the fixed day/flexible day system, causing uproar.

The act did not come into force until Jan. 1, but complaints started pouring in the minute it was announced.

Employers said the changes would increase operating costs, workers could not see any benefit for themselves, prices rose and the blame was placed at the feet of the new system.

Even US employers in Taiwan expressed concerns the system would scare off international talent.

The policy was clearly a no-win situation for employers, workers, the government and the entire populace.

Tomorrow, the system is to enter an evaluation period, in which there is unlikely to be a consensus on what needs to be done.

Some local governments will say it needs to be tweaked; some will say it should be postponed until the central government can introduce new measures; some will think they should introduce their own legislation.

Even the Ministry of Labor has said that if any violations of the law occur, then local governments can ask for amendments to be made.

This heavily suggests that the policy as it stands is incomplete, which is why there have been unprecedented calls for the law to be amended.

The Anglo-American philosopher Thomas Paine believed that the less a government interferes in peoples’ lives, the better. The government’s amendment here is just the sort of meddling Paine would have disapproved of.

The amendment to the law was an attempt by the DPP to curry favor with workers. The reopening of regulations concerning payment of overtime and holidays — which had been in place for years and were not disputed anyway — only served to increase operating costs and create a logistical headache for businesses.

Businesses are opposed to it while workers do not appreciate it — the changes to the law should therefore be reversed.

Every year, the government announces public holiday dates for the following year, which apply to shift workers and nine-to-five office workers alike.

It would be much fairer — and take into account the particular needs of the manufacturing and service industries — if workers and management were free to negotiate and agree holiday arrangements amongst themselves and then register the agreement with the authorities.

As for workers who are unable to use up all of their annual holiday within the alloted time, the government could set a minimum standard of compensation to guarantee employees’ rights.

The authorities could also inspect leave agreements for violations of labor laws and investigate the veracity of information provided by whistle-blowers, with harsh fines for any transgressions. Non-conforming managers would not have a leg to stand on.

Lee Ming-liang


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