President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday said that the government would work to strike a balance between the interests of workers and industry, and find a win-win solution for both sides.
At a meeting with business leaders, Tsai said that while the administration would not leave enterprises to face the pressures of transformation alone, it would be certain to ensure workers’ rights.
She made the comment in response to the ongoing dispute concerning workers’ hours while meeting 55 of the Chinese National Federation of Industries board directors and supervisors, including chairman Hsu Sheng-hsiung (許勝雄) and vice chairman Leslie Koo (辜成允).
Tsai said that when she met representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises several weeks ago, she told them that industries in Taiwan have to speed up their transformation so that their profits can increase, more jobs can be created and salaries can be raised.
Tsai said that she understands that enterprises have to race against time to complete orders, while workers care more about salary levels and rest breaks.
“As the head of state, my job is not to curry favor with anybody. My responsibility is to decide on a direction of development for the nation and to ensure that everyone is on the development train,” Tsai said, adding that workers and businesses should move toward the goal together.
The nation’s most important goal is modification of the economic structure, she said, adding that the government would improve the investment environment and take measures to help companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises — which account for 98 percent of Taiwan’s total businesses — to transform themselves, while ensuring workers’ rights.
“The government has the responsibility to pull workers back from the brink of low pay and overwork,” she said, adding that the government would ensure all workers’ rights to receive paid holidays and overtime pay, and impose restrictions on work hours through robust enforcement of labor laws.
Tsai also said businesses should think about how to generate benefits and improve employees’ working conditions.
She also mentioned the dispute over a draft amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), saying that the proposal is aimed at ensuring workers’ right to a maximum of two paid days off per week, but has sparked heated debate among employees and employers.
The Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan should do their utmost to explain the issue to those concerned and allow them to express their views in order to reach a consensus on the matter, she said.
The government would also tackle a dispute regarding whether to cut the number of officially designated holidays per year from 19 to 12, as part of its plans to implement a two days off, 40-hour work week system, Tsai said.
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