Sun, Oct 03, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Workers died on first day on the job, probe finds

Staff Writer, with CNA

Four of the six Indonesian workers killed in a freeway construction collapse on Thursday have been identified and officials have been working around the clock to identify the other two, an immigration official said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Nantou Specialized Operation Brigade said its initial investigation suggested that the six were working at the construction site illegally — as the construction contract expressly prohibits such hiring — and had died on their very first day of work there.

Thursday’s fatal accident took place when a 50m high, 80m wide section of scaffolding collapsed near the Beishan Interchange (北山交流道) in Nantou County on Freeway No. 6 and sent large concrete slabs hurtling to the ground, killing seven people, including the six Indonesian workers, and injuring two in the worst industrial accident since the construction of Freeway No. 6 began.

As of yesterday, the four identified workers were 29-year-old Sutarji, 24-year-old Sunaryo, 31-year-old Suprapto and 20-year-old Sirmanto, National Immigration Agency (NIA) Deputy Director-General Chang Chi (張琪) said.

According to the NIA, the six workers were all undocumented migrant workers who had fled their previous employers and overstayed their visas for up to three years.

The agency was working closely with the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office in Taipei — Indonesia’s representative office in Taiwan — and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help the families of the dead workers come to Taiwan as soon as possible, Chang said.

Baushuan Ger (葛葆宣), deputy secretary-general of the ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Taipei has contacted Indonesia via Taiwan’s representative in Jakarta as well.

“We have expressed our condolences over the death of the six workers and let them know that we will do our best to provide the necessary assistance to their families,” he said.

The accident has widespread social ramifications, with Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) pledging to enforce a crackdown on undocumented foreign workers, as well as domestic employers and contractors who illegally hire migrant workers.

Wu has also instructed the Council of Labor Affairs to provide the families of the deceased with as much assistance as possible.

The council said it has an annual budget of NT$10 million (US$322,000) to reward people who inform the council about runaway workers.

Each report of an offense that is later proved true is rewarded with NT$5,000. However, the budget has never been fully used, the council said.

The council is considering increasing the amount, it said.

Council statistics show that since Taiwan began to allow workers from countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam in 1990, the number of recorded runaway foreign workers has reached more than 90,000.

While about 60,000 runaways have been caught and repatriated, there are more than 30,000 people still unaccounted for, official tallies show.

According to figures from the council’s Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training, there were 151,723 Indonesian workers in Taiwan as of the end of August. The number accounted for more than 40 percent of the 372,146 migrant workers in Taiwan at that time.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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