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Sat, Aug 25, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Workers demonstrate for rights

IGNORED Protesters said yesterday that members of the Economic Development Advisory Conference have failed to address the needs of the nation's workers

By Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

Workers protest the government's plans to scrap benefits for foreign workers outside the meeting of the Economic Development Advisory Conference yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the meeting of the Economic Development Advisory Conference yesterday to demand greater consideration for workers' rights.

More than 300 protesters from local and foreign labor unions marched outside the Taipei International Convention Center yesterday.

They carried banners that read, "Appeasing employers and sup-pressing laborers" and "Put labor regulations into practice and establish a social welfare system."

"The conference has only considered employers' requests on tax cuts, but what about the establishment of Taiwan's social welfare system?" said Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤), president of the Kaohsiung chapter of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions.

"These new policies are totally different from President Chen's campaign promises."

Members of the Kaohsiung chapter drove six hours to Taipei to attend yesterday's protest.

Many of the laborers said say they were disappointed with President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) labor policies. The demonstrators also asked the conference to consider workers' rights when discussing the relaxation of the "no haste, be patient" policy and direct links with China.

"The increase in the unemployment rate is obviously caused by Taiwanese employers moving their investment to China," a statement from the trade union said.

"Lifting the ban on China investment hastily would accelerate the migration of enterprises, then innocent laborers would lose their jobs."

Chung said that while workers were not opposed to the possible easing of cross-strait policies, the government should establish programs to help workers deal with the policies' effects.

Workers from the Philippines also took to the streets yesterday to protest the conference's proposal to reduce the minimum wage for foreign laborers.

"The new policy violates human rights," said James Sandy, from Catholic Migrant Advocates.

The conference has proposed deducting food and rent costs from the paychecks of foreign workers.

Currently, companies that hire foreign laborers are responsible for providing them with food and board.

The proposal will be discussed today.

Though most labor unions were opposed to the opening of direct links, the Labor Party yesterday criticized the government for refusing to accept the "one China" principle, saying that it was the sole reason for Taiwan's sluggish economy.

"The country's confused orientation is the main problem, but the [council] hasn't done anything about this issue," the labor union said.

"The conference should consider Taiwan's national orientation rather than just focusing on relaxing the `no haste, be patient' policy."

Many of yesterday's protesters have been voicing opposition to the conference since it first began to take shape at the end of last month.

The government's lack of response had prompted them to step up their demonstrations, one protester said.

"We protested a month a ago, but the government never took it seriously," said Wang Mei-ling (王美鈴), an unemployed Taichung laborer.

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