Fri, Apr 17, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Amendments may boost strike rights

ADJUSTMENTS Requirements that call for union members to attend a meeting to vote in person on strike motions could be scrapped if the amendments are approved

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday approved amendments that would remove obstacles to workers forming unions and going on strike.

Current legislation stipulates that union members vote on whether to support a strike motion by attending an assembly and voting in person. If the amendments pass, union members would be able to vote by other means.

However, even if the amendments pass, current restrictions on unions calling for a strike in disputes over so-called “rights items,” such as defaults on wages and overtime pay, would remain in place.

Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) told a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting that the amendments would establish a rational mechanism for workers to exert their right to strike.

She said the amendments would affect the Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes Act (勞資爭議處理法), the Labor Union Act (工會法), the Teachers’ Act (教師法), the Educational Fundamental Act (教育基本法) and the University Act (大學法).

Current limitations on strikes and procedures for launching a strike are written in a brief article — Article 26 of the Labor Union Law.

Under the article, no strike may be declared to settle disputes on “adjustment items” — changes in working conditions such as wages, retirement pensions and working hours — unless mediation procedures have failed and the strike motion is favored by a majority of the labor union by ­secret vote in a general meeting.

In terms of “rights items,” currently disputes are handled only by mediation.

If the amendment passes, disputes on “rights items,” which Wang said accounted for more than 90 percent of the disputes, could be referred to arbitration if mediation failed.

To ensure the right of unions to take legal action — meaning a strike or other measures — that impede the normal operations of their firms to negotiate with management, the amendments stipulate that workers should be immune from civil and criminal responsibility for joining any actions.

The relaxed measures, however, would not apply to all workers.

The proposed amendments would stipulate that staffers with institutions under the Ministry of National Defense would not be allowed to form unions.

Public servants would be allowed to organize unions if the Examination Yuan’s Ministry of Civil Servants proposes a bill to regulate their activities, but the Executive Yuan suggested that public servants should be denied the right to strike.

The Cabinet-proposed amendments grant teachers the right to form unions, but not the right to strike.

The amendments would also limit the right to strike for workers connected to public safety.

Trade unions in water, electric and gas utilities, medical institutions, financial institutions, such as the Taiwan Stock Exchange, Taiwan Futures Exchange, Taiwan Depository & Clearing Corp, GRETAI Securities Market and Financial Information Service Co Ltd, would still be required to provide a “minimum level” of service in the event of a strike.

The restriction would also be applied to Type 1 telecom operators, namely Chunghwa Telecom, as it would be required to provide basic services for emergency lines — 110, 123, 119, 165 and its backbone network system.

Also See: Teachers triumph in labor struggle

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