Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Filipino workers, activists protest over jobs

RETRIBUTION?The migrant workers believe their contracts were not extended because they had fought and won against an employment agency's excessive fees

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Several Filipino laborers and labor activists protest in front of the Council of Labor Affairs yesterday against the Filipinos' employer for terminating their contracts.

PHOTO: CNA

Ten Filipinos and members of a labor-rights group protested outside the Council of Labor Affairs yesterday over the refusal of the Filipinos' employer to extend their contracts. The protesters claim the workers were being punished for a controversy over brokers' fees.

According to the labor-rights group Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), 19 Filipino migrant workers employed by Tai Fong Circuit Industry (TCI) in the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park were unable to get their contracts extended because they had fought against what they claimed was exploitation by their employment agency.

"Asia Human Resource, the employment agency hired by TCI, had been overcharging the 19 migrants for 20 months. The workers finally sought help from diplomatic sources and had their excessive payments returned last year. In response to the workers' victory, the broker pressured TFC not to rehire these workers," said Kao Wei-kai (高偉凱), APMM president.

Kao said that it seemed strange that even though the 19 had performed their jobs well, their contracts were not extended. The workers suspected that the employment agency might be trying to retaliate against them.

"Some of the workers have already returned to the Philippines and the rest are scheduled to depart tomorrow," Kao said.

According to the Employment Service Law (就業服務法), a foreign employee is permitted to work under contract for two years with a possible one-year extension at the employer's discretion.

The APMM cited Article 74 of Employment Standards Law (勞動基準法) as grounds for the protest. That article states that in cases where an employee discovers legal violations on the part of his or her employer and informs the authorities, the employer may not terminate the service of the employee for doing so.

The APMM also urged the council to blacklist or cancel the business licenses of exploitative employment agencies.

A representative of Asia Human Resource, who refused to identify herself, said that TCI had ended its contract with the company as of Oct. 8 last year and the extra fees collected from Filipino workers had been returned late last year.

"Through the intervention of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, the extra fees collected were returned to the workers last year. After that, TCI decided to terminate our services. Therefore, anything that happened afterward was unbeknownst to us," the representative said.

TCI refused to comment on the issue as the person in charge of the matter was not available yesterday.

Liao Wei-jen (廖為仁), a section chief in charge of foreign labor affairs at the CLA's Employment and Vocational Training Administra-tion, said that an employer has the right not to extend a employee's contract when the first two-year contract has expired.

"The right not to extend does not mean laying an employee off improperly. Whether to extend the contract is at the discretion of the employer," Liao said.

Liao also pointed out that APMM employees had settled the complaints over excessive fees with Asia Human Resource without formally contacting the local labor authority for help.

"Therefore, we do not know much about this controversy and need to look further into it. The council, however, does have the right to blacklist unethical employment agencies and to revoke their business licenses," Liao said.

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