Legislature passes amendments

‘MAJORITY VIOLENCE’::KMT Legislator Lin Li-chan was sent to a hospital after being injured in one of a number of brawls between KMT and DPP lawmakers

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Dec 07, 2016 - Page 1

The legislature yesterday passed a set of controversial amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), which would cancel seven national holidays and implement one “flexible rest day” as a supporting measure to the 40-hour workweek policy, ending a months-long legislative struggle.

The amendments stipulate that employees are entitled to two days off every week, with one being a mandatory day off and the other a flexible rest day, on which employees can be asked to work and receive overtime payment.

The amendments also reduced the number of national holidays by seven, while allowing employers to provide more annual leave days than permitted previously.

The legislation was passed amid fighting between lawmakers. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers occupied the speaker’s podium in the Legislative Yuan’s general assembly chamber in the morning to disrupt proceedings and prevent the controversial amendments from being put to a vote.

The KMT demanded that the number of national holidays remain unchanged, with KMT caucus convener Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) saying that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should seek a consensus over the legislation.

Following the standoff, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) called a cross-caucus negotiation meeting, which Minister of Labor Kuo Fong-yu (郭芳煜) attended.

The six-hour negotiations ended without reaching a consensus, and DPP lawmakers regained the speaker’s podium after scuffles with KMT legislators, during which KMT Legislator Lin Li-chan (林麗蟬) was injured and taken to a hospital.

The floor meeting resumed at about 4:30pm amid turmoil, with the DPP caucus raising motions to end general discussion of the amendments, which were then put to a vote in the second reading.

Despite opposition from the KMT, the New Power Party (NPP) and the People First Party, the DPP — which holds a legislative majority — voted to pass the amendments.

The DPP’s version of the amendments is better than those of the other parties in terms of protecting labor rights, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.

“I am confident that our version of the amendments is the most progressive, and it protects all of the interests of workers,” he said, adding that it was the most worker-friendly in terms of annual leave, especially for younger employees who lack seniority.

“Is Taiwan a leading global economy? We must face problems of national competitiveness,” Ker said in defense of the scrapping of seven national holidays. “Many workers want to work overtime to receive overtime pay. The amendments allow flexibility for those workers.”

The KMT was most responsible for unrest related to the legislation, because it failed to create better working conditions during previous labor law revisions when it was in power, he added.

The KMT called a news conference at 7:40pm, while voting was still in progress, to apologize for its failure in preventing the DPP from passing the amendments, saying it could not resist President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “tyranny and arrogance” and the DPP’s “majority violence,” which would result in 9 million workers losing seven national holidays.

“We are deeply sorry, but we pledge a continuous commitment to the rights of workers,” it said in a statement.

The NPP caucus also criticized the passage of the amendments, with NPP caucus whip Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) saying that there was no justification for the DPP to force their passage if it could halt same-sex marriage legislation.

The legislature late last night passed a third reading of the amendments.