China said yesterday it was willing to set up a non-governmental mechanism with Taiwan to enable 30,000 mainland Chinese laborers to return to work for Taiwanese fishing companies.
Li Weiyi (李維一), a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said, however, that Taiwan authorities must adopt measures to guarantee the benefits of the workers.
"We hope to have further discussions on this matter and quickly establish a cross-straits non-governmental consultation mechanism to resolve this issue at an early date," Li told reporters during a regular news briefing.
China banned mainland workers from taking jobs with Taiwan fishermen from Feb. 1, a move which has had a negative impact on the Taiwan fishing industry. Many Taiwan fishing companies rely on cheap Chinese laborers for their operations due to a local labor shortage.
Chinese sources had earlier told the fishermen the ban was being imposed because Chinese workers were not insured and could immigrate illegally to Taiwan, a Taiwan daily reported.
Li yesterday said the ban was "temporary" but did not say why China issued it. He suggested Taiwan officials do more to help resolve the problem.
"At the same time, we hope Taiwan authorities will adopt similar measures to truly guarantee legal benefits for Chinese fish-industry workers and to allow the cross-strait fishing industry's labor exchange to develop in a healthy way, in a good environment," Li said.
Li also confirmed that representatives from Taiwan's fishing industry went to China on March 15 to work out a solution. He said the group -- made up of representatives of around 10 Taiwan fishery associations -- held talks with China's Cross Straits Cooperation and Coordination Committee.
Some 25,000 to 30,000 Chinese laborers are employed in the Taiwanese fishing industry and live on boats off the nation's coastlines, according to Taiwan's department of fishery.