Several labor, migrant worker and Aboriginal groups also staged a demonstration outside the Executive Yuan yesterday morning, protesting the government’s role in the repression of labor, and called on the public to boycott the nation’s major political parties in the next legislative election.
The organizers said the government — whether Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — was unfriendly to workers and was an accomplice in the repression of workers.
“The capitalists repress the workers and the government stands with them. The government helps the capitalists to repress workers. They are all the same,” Ho Kuang-wan (賀光卍), who represents the Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries, told the crowd.
“A lot of people are working such long hours everyday that their health is threatened,” Ho said. “Instead of helping workers out, the government adjusted regulations in favor of employers and encouraged workers to exercise more.”
Ko Yi-min (柯逸民), convener of Raged Citizens Act Now, said Workers’ Day should not become a day for the government to honor “model workers,” because “it’s a day to commemorate workers’ struggles for their social, economic and political rights.”
The demonstrators also performed a short skit in which two actors representing the KMT and the DPP fight with each other on stage, before interacting in a friendly manner once off the stage, all the while ignoring the workers and Aborigines who were voicing their grievances.
An actor and an actress playing ordinary workers said that they endured long working hours, low wages and unstable employment.
An Amis activist said that Aborigines suffer from long-term unemployment, but when they want to return to their home villages, they frequently find the government has designated their traditional lands as natural reserves, for official use or as construction sites for resorts.
“We, the people, want to be the real masters of this country — all the time as it should be, not just on election days,” said Chou Chia-chun (周佳君), a representative of the Urban Workers’ Alliance for Political Participation, adding that labor groups are considering endorsing their own members to run in January’s legislative election.
Reacting to yesterday’s protests, Ma did not offer any concrete promises, but said his administration would listen to the protesters’ demands and make improvements.
He said that three revised labor laws implemented yesterday were of “epoch-making” significance and an “historic miracle.”
Ma was referring to the Labor Union Act (工會法), the Collective Bargaining Agreement Act (團體協約法) and the Settlement of Labor Disputes Act (勞資爭議處理法).
Only one item was amended during his presidency.
The Labor Union Act was last revised in June last year, but the Executive Yuan did not decide when to implement the revisions until four months later. Nevertheless, only one article of the amended law came into force — in December last year.
Both the Collective Bargaining Agreement Act and Settlement of Labor Disputes Act were last amended under the former DPP administration, which was in office from 2000 until 2008.
Ma said Taiwan had seen impressive economic growth in the past two years. Unemployment has continued to drop for 19 consecutive months and was down to 4.48 percent in March, he said. Every job seeker has an average of 1.73 job opportunities and businesses have complained that they have a shortage of workers, he said, adding that 250,000 more people found jobs in March compared with the same period last year.