Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Caregivers working toward brighter future

By Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

Indonesian caregiver Tris Baris Kosiyah feeds her employer Kang Tsai-pao in this file photo dating from April last year. Foreign caregivers are in the spotlight following the death of a presidential adviser and the robbery of a well-known author.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

On Jan. 15, Indonesian caregivers Dewa, Sisilia and Wady woke up at 5:30am, earlier than usual, to escape undetected from the house of their sleeping employer in Taipei County.

None of them had any cash so Wady, 24, who had been in Taiwan for three years, went to collect NT$1,000 from an Indonesian friend. The money helped them find their way to the Hope Workers Center, a Taoyuan-based Catholic organization that has assisted many immigrant workers.

The three women ran away, they said, because they had been beaten by their employer, who had never paid a penny of their salaries to them in person, instead sending payments direct to Indonesia.

"I slept badly the previous night and I was very nervous while we were running away," said Sisilia, 22, who has been in Taiwan for two years.

Dewa, her eyes injured in what she said was a beating by her female employer before she ran away, explained, "If we hadn't run away, we would have ended up being beaten to death."

The death of presidential adviser Liu Hsia (劉俠) after an alleged attack by her Indonesian caregiver earlier this month, and the robbery of well-known writer Yin Chue-man by his Vietnamese caregiver last week have once again thrown relations between immigrant caregivers and their Taiwanese employers into the media spotlight.

James Hsueh (薛承泰), a professor of sociology at National Taiwan University, blames the Liu and Yin cases on what he says is the government's failure to stipulate qualifying criteria for foreign workers.

Activists fighting for foreign workers rights say a lack of clear regulations and lax social welfare policies are the reasons for the frequently tense relations between foreign caregivers and their employers.

Lorna Kung (龔尤倩), an official at the Taiwan International Labor Association, said that both employers and foreign caregivers often fall victim to the legal system.

"There is no clear definition of housekeepers and caregivers' duties, working hours and salaries. We hope that the government can set up clear regulations to define these issues," said Kung, who has cooperated with other social groups on drafting a "caregiver service law" (家事服務法) to give clear definitions of the terms of employment for such jobs.

Dewa, Sisilia and Wady's experiences certainly lend weight to Kung's point. They say that they never had a day off when they worked for their former employer.

"We had to take care of the kids, the grandfather and work in a cell-phone factory every day. Sometimes, we had to clean the house of our boss's friend," Wady said.

According to the statistics from the Council of Labor Affairs, about 100,000 foreign caregivers and 25,000 caregivers sought advice or help from foreign labor assistance centers nationwide last year.

Cheng Tsun-chi (鄭村棋), former director of Taipei City's Bureau of Labor Affairs and an activist for labors rights, said the government has purposely ignored the problems between Taiwanese employers and foreign workers.

"The government needs to allocate budgets to implement social welfare policies and train local caregivers to replace foreign ones, which is something the government doesn't want to do at this moment," Cheng said.

To improve the current situation, Cheng said that the government should legalize a caregiver service law and allow foreign workers to organize unions to bargain with Taiwanese employers.

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