Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Rally defends workers' strike rights

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Unionists protest a draft labor law that would limit the right to strike yesterday near the Legislative Yuan.


Labor representatives protested the proposed Third Labor Law (勞動三法) yesterday in front of the Legislative Yuan, saying that if the draft fails to pass, it would mean a move backward for workers.

A draft of the Third Labor Law was scheduled for its second reading yesterday, the last day of this year's first legislative session. The draft would bar national defense, utilities and air-traffic control workers from striking. Workers in telecommunications, transportation, public health, refineries, hospitals and energy businesses would face a 30-day cooling-off period before going on strike.

To protest the proposal, various labor groups held a rally outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday to publicize their objections and witness the legislative process.

"We are here to see which legislators do and do not support our cause. The results will impact our members' votes in the year-end legislative elections," said Chang Li-fen (張麗芬) of the Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union (CTWU) at the protest.

Workers representing labor organizations from schools, utilities, transportation companies and medical industries gathered outside the Legislative Yuan despite a light drizzle, shouting slogans such as "Give us back our collective bargaining power!"

"Workers in the national defense industry have a military duty to the county, so we can understand why they shouldn't be given the right to strike," said Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍), executive director of the Labor Rights Association. "But teachers? The only way workers can push for their rights is to have the right to strike as a tool. Actually, most unions only strike as a last resort, but it is the main way workers can exert force for their rights."

The groups said that while they were hoping that the bill would be stalled or would fail to pass, they also hope for future improvements in labor legislation.

"Ideally, the article banning teachers from unionizing will be removed, but for now, we are just watching to see what will happen," said Liu Chin-hsu (劉欽旭), teachers' association general secretary.

Two local business groups yesterday urged the legislature to shelve the controversial labor pension bill (勞工退休金條例) until a consensus is reached with labor unions.

The General Chamber of Commerce (商總) and the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (中小企業協會) yesterday jointly released a statement arguing that a hurried legislative passage of the bill would intensify conflict between labor unions and employers' groups and lower business profits.

Businesses insist that the minimum percentage of an employee's salary that an employer must contribute to the Labor Pension Fund should be raised gradually from 2 percent to 6 percent, while the bill's first-reading version stipulates that the percentage would jump directly from 2 percent to 6 percent, the statement said.

(additional reporting by Staff Reporter Joyce Huang)

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