Mon, Jan 08, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Migrant workers demand more rights

NEGLECTED:The government’s labor policies do not cover migrant workers, whose numbers surpass 670,000, the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan said

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Members of the Taiwan International Workers’ Association unfurl a banner with the Chinese character for “slave” crossed out during a march calling for more rights for migrant workers in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday marched from the Ministry of Labor to Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei, demanding that the government give workers political rights so that they could improve their working conditions.

The group gathered in front of the ministry at noon and started marching along Yanping N Road at about 1:30pm, playing drums and chanting on the way to the boulevard.

Demonstrators shouted “Together we live, together we decide” and “We are workers, not slaves” as they marched along the boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building, defying the rain and cold.

The organizer, the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), estimated a turnout of about 2,000 people, while the Taipei City Police Department put the number at 700.

The group carried four human-shaped models, with three of them representing migrant factory workers, caregivers and fishers — the three sectors in which migrants face the harshest working conditions in Taiwan, MENT said.

The last one — the biggest — bore Chinese characters that read “See the nation’s non-citizens” (看見非公民) on its body, and was half-finished, symbolizing migrant workers’ lack of political rights, MENT said.

It has been 25 years since the nation began accepting migrant workers, of whom there are now more than 670,000, but they remain the most marginalized and powerless workforce in Taiwanese society, it said.

Even though the Legislative Yuan is reviewing amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and the ministry said it would launch a draft bill to raise the minimum wage this year, the basic rights and minimum wages of migrant workers are excluded from the discussions, MENT said.

Most household caregivers earn only NT$17,000 per month, much lower than the legal minimum wage of NT$22,000, it said.

Near the end of the demonstration, the organizer revealed the results of a mock referendum on migrant workers’ rights, which was held from Sept. 17 to Dec. 31 last year at more than 20 polling stations nationwide.

It asked three questions: Should migrant caregivers be protected by the labor act? Should the government abolish the private employment brokerage system? and Should foreign workers be able to freely change employers?

The poll found that 12,744 people said “yes” to the first question, while 15 said “no.”

The second question garnered 12,684 “yes” votes and 95 “no” votes, while the last one garnered 12,705 “yes” votes and 83 “no” votes, MENT said.

As of November, there were 674,651 migrant workers in Taiwan, 49,883 more than in December 2016, and the number has been growing steadily, ministry data showed.

Among them, 425,010 work in productive industries such as agriculture, fishing and manufacturing, while 249,641 work in the social welfare sector, ministry data showed.

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