Mon, May 01, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Migrants, supporters rally for better conditions, rights

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Migrant workers and members of labor rights groups gather on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei yesterday after a parade from the Ministry of Labor to back calls for better working conditions for migrant workers.

Photo: CNA

Hundreds of migrant workers and members of labor rights groups yesterday took to the streets of Taipei on the eve of Workers’ Day to urge the government to amend the law to improve working conditions and labor rights for migrant workers.

Participants rallied in front of the Ministry of Labor at about noontime, calling on the ministry to meet three main demands, before setting off on a parade that ended on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building.

The marchers held signs and banners in several languages, with messages such as “against the government being employer-friendly and using the system to suppress migrant workers,” “do not abuse, migrant workers are humans too” and “stop sweatshop migrant labor, fight for equal labor rights.”

The parade organizer, the Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA), said it has been 25 years since migrant workers were first allowed in Taiwan, but government regulations have worsened and had thrown the employer-employee relationship off balance for the sake of easier management.

The protesters’ three main demands were: abolish the private employment brokerage system and enforce direct recruitment between nation; allow migrant workers to freely switch employers; and fight against the market-driven long-term care service system while protecting household workers’ rights through the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

“We never asked a local worker to pay a brokerage fee of NT$80,000 to NT$150,000 to get a job, so why do migrant workers have to endure such exploitation?” the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT) said, urging the government to act as an intermediary to prevent exploitation of migrants.

“It is ridiculous that migrant workers can only resign if their employer agrees to it,” the TIWA said, urging lawmakers to amend Article 53 of the Employment Services Act (就業服務法).

Taiwan’s long-term care service system should be public, because allowing it to become privately run or market-driven will worsen labor conditions for local and migrant caregivers or household workers alike, TIWA said, adding that more than half of migrant household workers work year round, with no holidays.

A Vietnamese woman who has worked as a household caregiver for eight years said she had to work long hours and be on stand-by nearly every day, without holidays.

She also said that she had to pay a large proportion of her salary to a manpower agency every month.

When the marchers reached Ketagelan Boulevard, they tossed paper planes carrying their “blood-sweat demands” toward the Presidential Office to symbolize their sending their voices to the president.

The Ministry of Labor issued a news release in the afternoon saying that it would “enhance current direct employment measures, re-examine the eligibility requirements for transferring between employers and try to implement respite care service for employers of migrant household workers to improve and protect their labor rights.”

The ministry said it has established a direct employment joint services center for employers to recruit migrant workers without having to use brokers and created an accreditation mechanism to evaluate recruitment agencies.

The success rate of transferring workers between employers is about 93.3 percent as of February, the mininstry said.

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