Labor groups continue workweek policy protests


Sat, Nov 25, 2000 - Page 3

A coalition of more than 13 labor groups continued protests yesterday against the government's policy U-turn on the length of the workweek, saying labor rights are being sacrificed to the current political struggle.

Following the Executive Yuan's decision on Thursday to reverse a decision passed by the legislature, which reduced the maximum workweek to 84 hours in a fortnight, the groups have united to voice their strong opposition to the policy reversal.

Over a hundred labor rights advocates staged a demonstration at the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan yesterday morning, trying to make their anger heard to the government.

Workweek policy has been a hot issue since the government, which had been seen as being labor-friendly, began pushing for a cut to the existing maximum workweek of 48 hours in June.

Originally, the Executive Yuan had reached a consensus with industry and labor groups to reduce the workweek to a maximum of 44-hours. However, when the Executive Yuan's proposal was sent to a vote in the legislature, the KMT, which holds a majority of seats, proposed the even more alluring 84-hours every fortnight and passed legislation to this effect on June 16.

According to the Constitution, the Executive Yuan can request that the legislature reconsider a bill which is difficult to implement. Nevertheless, the Executive Yuan did not take any action to reverse the legislature's 84-hour decision.

Defending its policy U-turn, the Executive Yuan has reasoned that a return to the 44-hour standard is necessary because the 84-hour decision has prompted a flood of companies to leave the country and added to Taiwan's economic slowdown.

However, the groups said that the root of Taiwan's economic problems is the political turmoil now enveloping the country, for which they claimed both the ruling party and the opposition are responsible. They said it is not fair to blame the reduction of the workweek for companies moving abroad or the economic slowdown.

Lin Hui-kuan (林惠官), president of the Chinese Federation of Labor (全國總工會), one of the three national labor unions in Taiwan, said before the Labor Standard Law was implemented in 1984, laborers were warned that the law would discourage industries from staying in the country and were told they would lose their jobs in the end. The prediction was proved false, but now the same threats are being made to the laborers over the workweek issue, he said.

"The political situation is apparently the source of the various economic problems, we can't accept the workweek issue being used as a scapegoat and laborers' rights being sacrificed," Lin said.

The groups insisted the Executive Yuan stick to the 84-hour decision, but they also suggested a possible scenario of concession.

They said if the Executive Yuan could have industries promise "to maintain their roots in Taiwan" (根留台灣), they might accept the 44-hour proposal.