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Sat, Feb 17, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Workers groups lambaste limits on the right to strike


Labor groups are worried workers' rights to strike would be unreasonably restricted in the wake of the labor authorities' recent proposal to exclude the workers of specific industries from being able to strike.

Chang Feng-yi (張烽益), secretary-general of the Taiwan Labor Front (台灣勞工陣線), said yesterday that the draft of amendments to the Labor Union Law, proposed by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), unreasonably restrains the right to strike of workers in the aviation, medical care and water and electricity supply industries.

Chang's Labor Front and other labor groups are continuing to pressure the CLA not to include these restrictions in the draft, which authorities are set to finalize by the end of February.

Meanwhile, Hung Jui-ching (洪瑞清), director of the CLA's labor-employer relations department, said yesterday more discussions will be held on the matter in the light of the raising of these dissenting voices. He added that a public hearing will be held at the Legislative Yuan on Monday.

Hung admitted there could be problems with banning the workers of these specific industries from launching industrial action. He said, however, it also has to take into account the disruption caused by strikes in these fields.

The debate over the right to strike has emerged following the CLA's proposal this week to amend the Labor Union Law and two other laws concerning the resolution of worker-employer disputes.

While the proposal contains many liberal changes to existing regulations on the formation and operation of labor unions, the move to ban workers in specific industries from striking has invoked criticism from labor groups and academics.

Chang said that the right to strike is a powerful weapon for workers to use against employers, and the workers of these specific industries should not be stopped from striking despite the nature of the industries.

Wang Hui-ling (王惠玲), associate professor of labor studies at National Chengchi University, also pointed out that it is not fair to restrain the workers of specific industries from striking.

However, she noted, a special strike procedure could be created and applied to workers in these industries in order to minimize the impact on the public if they do decide to strike.

For instance, she said, while the medical staff who have to take care of patients should not be permitted to strike, the staff handling administrative matters should be allowed the same rights to strike as workers in other industries.

Worries that strikes by workers in these specific industries could affect the public can be resolved as long as unions prepare "contingency plans" in advance of any industrial action, Chang said.

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