Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Thousands march to demand better work conditions

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Workers hold banners reading, from left, “Fight for a referendum,” “Demand a higher salary” and “Fight for the right of workers” during a Workers’ Day rally in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chiang Ying-ying, AP

Thousands of workers and labor rights advocates from more than 60 unions yesterday marched in Taipei to mark International Workers’ Day and call for better work conditions.

Before the march, participants rallied in front of the Presidential Office Building, shouting: “We want better rights and better pay” and “No more overwork.”

“The Democratic Progressive Party administration has allowed work conditions to continually worsen by siding with capitalists,” China Airlines Union director Steven Chang (張書元) said.

Recent casualties from overwork and work-related accidents include a fire at a factory in Taoyuan on Saturday that killed five firefighters and two Thai workers, and a traffic accident last week in which a truck struck and killed two police officers and another truck driver after the driver had worked for 22 consecutive days, he added.

“The government is not only unable to prevent companies from overworking their employees, but has amended the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) for the worse,” he said.

The Legislative Yuan in January passed controversial amendments to the act, which allow employees to work for up to 12 consecutive days with less rest time between shifts and less overtime pay.

“Although we have experienced a setback in our fight against the amendments, we have not given up. Unions and labor groups have formed an alliance to promote referendums aimed at repealing the amendments and ensuring that workers have 19 public holidays every year,” Labor Rights Association executive director Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍) said, urging people across the nation to support the referendum proposals.

“We hope to, through direct democracy, reverse the new labor law that brought work conditions back to where they were 30 years ago,” she said.

For the referendums to be held on Nov. 24 alongside the mayoral elections, they must gather 281,745 signatures by July 31.

Union members said they currently have about 50,000 signatures.

Labor groups also called on the government to increase the minimum wage to NT$28,000 per month and urged companies to raise their employees’ salaries 10 percent on top of that.

“Workers are forced to accept poor working conditions because they are paid very little,” Chang said, adding that only by raising salaries can overwork truly be prevented.

Statistics show that in the past 20 years, the nation’s GDP has increased 89.95 percent and companies’ profits have grown 130 percent, Taiwan Higher Education Union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) said.

Meanwhile, housing prices and consumer goods prices have increased 120 percent and 20.92 percent respectively, but salaries have risen by only 24.9 percent, he said.

“Economic growth has not been reflected in people’s salaries and the nation’s purchasing power has decreased due to increased prices for goods and housing. Companies should be able to afford better salaries for their employees,” he said.

Following the rally, about 6,000 participants marched from Ketagalan Boulevard, Boai Road and Zhongxiao W Road to the Legislative Yuan building.

In response to labor groups’ requests, the Ministry of Labor issued a statement saying it would enhance labor inspections and supervise employers through various mechanisms to protect employees from overwork.

The ministry said it is working on a minimum wage act and that the current minimum wage of NT$22,000 has already been increased twice over the past two years.

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