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Fri, Dec 22, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Union no-show cripples 44-hour workweek plan

NEGOTIATIONS Talks between labor unions and the ruling party have broken down, leaving little hope that the legislature will approve the DPP's revision of the length of the workweek to 44 hours

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

The DPP's effort to have the legislature reverse its decision on workweek policy almost foundered yesterday after workers' representatives turned down the DPP's offer to negotiate.

"There is now only a 59-percent chance for the amendment to pass tomorrow," said a depressed Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財), convener of the DPP's legislative caucus.

Just a day before, Hsu said he was optimistic that opposition lawmakers would support the Executive Yuan's bill to introduce a 44-hour workweek on Jan. 1, reversing a June 16 decision by the legislature to opt for a 84-hour-per-fortnight measure.

Opposition lawmakers have insisted that the DPP reach an agreement with workers on the 44-hour workweek as a condition for them to endorse the revised policy. Hsu had expected that such an agreement could be reached yesterday.

The DPP caucus had arranged a meeting with workers' representatives yesterday afternoon, but none of the representatives showed up.

"We have been staying in contact with labor unions, but the meeting couldn't be realized because there were different opinions from labor rights activists," Hsu said.

Ever since the Executive Yuan made clear its intention on Nov. 22 to reduce the workweek to 44 hours, 18 workers' groups have united together and formed an alliance to safeguard the 84-hour-per-fortnight measure.

The groups include the Chinese Federation of Labor (中華民國全國總工會) and the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (全國產業總工會) -- the two largest workers' unions in Taiwan -- and the Committee for Action for Labor Legislation (工人立法行動委員會) and the Taiwan Labor Front (台灣勞工陣線) -- which are two major organizations promoting labor rights in Taiwan.

Members of the alliance have staged numerous demonstrations protesting against the Executive Yuan's proposed amendment and have exerted intense pressure on lawmakers to stick to their original decision.

Yesterday morning, Hsu said that the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs was ready to offer workers measures to improve their welfare in exchange for their concession on the workweek issue in the meeting scheduled for later in the day. According to Hsu, a consensus had been reached with the workers and a written agreement was likely to be signed at the meeting.

Those invited to the meeting were representatives from workers' unions, and the meeting was supposed to be kept secret.

"After the plan for the meeting was exposed to the public, some people came out to block it," Hsu said.

Leaders of the alliance, meanwhile, accused the DPP of destroying the basis of mutual trust for negotiations by spreading false information suggesting that the alliance had accepted the 44-hour workweek plan.

Lin Huei-kwung (林惠官), president of the Chinese Federation of Labor, said that members of the alliance had not negotiated with the DPP, let alone reached any consensus.

"Even before we met, the DPP had spread news saying we were ready to sign. This is a move that disgraces us," Lin said.

Hwang Ching-hsien (黃清賢), president of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, said the alliance has closed the door to negotiating with the DPP because workers have lost faith in the ruling party.

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