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Fri, May 19, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Labor issues take the spotlight

WORKERS' RIGHTS The Council of Labor Affairs is under pressure from labor groups to fulfill Chen Shui-bian's campaign promises; topping the list is a rethink of the way ceilings on foreign labor are calculated

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

On the eve of the new president's inauguration, the Taiwan Labor Front (TLF, 台灣勞工陣線) yesterday demanded the next head of the Council of Labor Affairs prioritize a number of policies that most concern local laborers.

At the top of the list is an "early warning alert" that would warn if the total number of foreign laborers allowed to be imported threatened the employment prospects of Taiwan's native labor force.

"None of these policies involves enacting new laws or revising existing legislation -- this can be accomplished through administrative powers," said TLF secretary-general Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文).

"Therefore, we demand incoming Chairperson of the Council of Labor Affairs, Chen Chu (陳菊), to prioritize [these policies] so as to better protect Taiwan laborers."

Above all, an "early warning alert" that measures the threat to the Taiwan labor force by imported foreign laborers is required by the Employment and Services Act, based on the law's latest revision in 1997, Kuo said.

"Now, three years later on, an index to measure this threat has not been implemented. The CLA apparently has failed its duty in this respect," Kuo said.

Other policies highlighted by the TLF included the setting up of a national employment information network and the establishment of a uniform labor inspection system supervised by a central government agency.

Also the TLF wants improvements in work safety in white-collar service industries; regular adjustments to the basic wage according to existing formulae and a broader application of the Labor Standards Law.

In addition, the TLF said the new government's promise of a 3 percent preferential interest rate on housing loans should be made retroactive, so that the laborers who bought houses previously could also benefit from the new policy.

Responding to the appeals, Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢), director of the Council of Labor Affairs' department of labor management relations, promised to pass the message to the new CLA head.

Chen said that the CLA had been working on most of the policies mentioned, but some still posed problems to implement.

As for the "early warning alert" concerning foreign laborers, Chen admitted that the fixed quota of 300,000 imported laborers adopted by the CLA was always challenged by labor groups and legislators, because it was not reviewed regularly and did not take into account such factors such as the current rate of unemployment and the government's ability to create employment opportunities.

"We will try to update the quota to make it more realistically reflect the current climate," Chen said.

When it come to reviewing the quota, Chen was convinced the figure would be revised downwards, rather than up.

"Tightening up foreign labor policy is a trend," Chen said.

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