Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Taipei Labor bureau reminds bosses of workers' rights

FOREIGN LABOR Employers cannot hold on to their employees' official documents, wages or possessions without legal permission

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

It is unlawful for employers to retain foreign laborers' identification documents and wages, according to the Taipei City Government's Bureau of Labor.

In response to a recent news report in which a celebrity held the passport and wages of her foreign employee, the newly appointed chief of the bureau, Yan Shang-luan (嚴祥鸞), released a statement urging the public to respect the human rights of foreign workers.

"This shows a common discrimination in our society. The bureau will conduct random checks to see if employers are keeping the passports of their foreign laborers," Yan said.

Yan is a well known social activist on gender and labor rights issues.

According to Article 57 of the Employment Service Law (就業服務法), it is against the law to retain or appropriate workers' passports, residence documents or personal belongings without legal permission.

Violators can be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000.

"Employers should hire foreign labor workers legally and understand the legal rules governing these workers," Yan said.

Yan said the neglect of the rights of foreign laborers illustrates the disparity between human rights in this country and the ideal situation of how human rights should be practiced.

"The people in Taiwan should keep on pushing human rights issues to the next level," Yan said.

According to the bureau, although foreign laborers have been hired from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia for many years, there has been an increase in attention to labor disputes and related issued recently.

"In the past year, due to the economic downturn, labor dis-putes between employers and foreign laborers have increased. This situation is detrimental to the working rights of foreign laborers. It also tarnishes the idea that the working rights of laborers in Taiwan are guaranteed," the bureau said in a statement.

Despite the numerous regulations prohibiting employers from appropriating their foreign laborers' possessions, including passports, or holding back wages, such situations are common.

"The problem of employers holding back wages is actually more prevalent than the appropriation of employees' legal documents," said Chen Ming-ling (陳明鈴), a supervisor at the bureau's foreign labor section.

According to the bureau, if employers want to help their workers save money by setting aside some of their wages, the employers must first seek permission from the employee and sign a letter of agreement.

An employer found to be retaining wages from foreign laborers also runs the risk of being barred from hiring foreign workers again.

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