Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan, Indonesia close to a deal

WORKING OUT DETAILS The Council of Labor Affairs says the freeze on hiring Indonesian laborers will likely be lifted and that a pact is expected within three months

CNA , TAIPEI

Taiwan will work to sign a memorandum on labor affairs with Indonesia in the near future to facilitate cooperation, Council of Labor Affairs Chairwoman Chen Chu (陳菊) said yesterday.

Chen, who visited Indonesia last week, said at a news conference that the council is likely to lift a freeze on the introduction of new Indonesian laborers shortly as she is positive now that part of the situation that led the government to freeze the import of Indonesians has improved substantially.

The memorandum is expected to be forged in three months and will serve as a guideline for both sides to follow when labor disputes or controversies arise in the future, she said.

The council imposed the freeze in August 2002 in retaliation for the high rate of runaways and illegal work among Indonesian laborers, as well as the excessively high brokerage fees charged by the Indonesian side.

Calling her just-concluded trip to Jakarta a success, Chen said she and her Indonesian counterpart, Minister of Manpower and Trans-migration Jacob Nuwawea, discussed a wide range of topics, including how to lower the runaway rate of Indonesian workers.

Chen said during her visit, she and Kuo Fang-yu (郭芳煜), director-general of the Employment and Vocational Training Administration, were kept abreast of the latest measures that Jakarta has implemented to improve the absconding situation, Indonesia's labor training and export policy, the qualification verification system and the manner of assigning and collecting fees.

Chen's visit to Jakarta marked the first official visit by a high-level government official since Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) visited in August 2002.

For his part, Kuo said at the news conference that before the labor affairs memorandum can be signed, the two countries must iron out some details, including the question of age.

Indonesia hopes that its citizens aged 18 or above will be allowed to work in Taiwan, against the council's regulation of a minimum age of 20.

The two sides must also seek an agreement on the minimum wage issue. Indonesia hopes that it should begin from NT$16,000, whereas the council's standard is set at NT$15,840, Kuo said.

On efforts to curb runaways, Kuo said the council may consider resorting to economic means or direct introduction or employment of workers from Indonesia.

Before the two countries forge the labor memorandum, Kuo said, the council agreed to adopt a pragmatic policy for a "transitional" period, allowing Indonesians whose work contracts are expiring to stay on until the memorandum is hammered out.

Over the past several months, according to council officials, the situation regarding Indonesian workers absconding has improved following closer cooperation and communication between the two governments.

The council's offer of a three-month assessment period, during which time foreign laborers who had run away were allowed to turn themselves in voluntarily, has also contributed to improving the situation, the officials said.

According to council tallies, about 70 percent of the foreign laborers who turned themselves in to police between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 last year for absconding were Indonesian nationals.

There were approximately 280,000 legal foreign workers as of June 1 last year, with most being employed in the manufacturing sector and some working as household helpers and caregivers. Of that number, Thais accounted for the largest group at about 102,000, followed by Indonesians at 73,000, Filipinos at 66,000 and Vietnamese at 37,000.

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