Thu, Dec 16, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Foreign migrant workers protest

LABOR RIGHTS Foreign workers gathered at the Executive Yuan yesterday to protest a six-year limit on how long they can be employed in Taiwan

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Foreign migrant workers' advocacy groups yesterday filed a petition at the Executive Yuan to abolish a six-year time limit for employing foreign migrant workers.

"This restriction is rather puzzling to us, as it is unheard of in other places. Hong Kong and Singapore have set quotas for incoming migrant workers, but never an employment time-limit restriction," said Ku Yu-Ling (顧玉玲), secretary-general of the Taiwan International Migrants' Association.

As Dec. 18 is International Migrants Day, a group called Promoting Alien for Household Services Act yesterday gathered over 30 foreign workers, including blue and white-collar professions, to fight for three rights: working rights, immigration rights and the right of political participation.

At the Executive Yuan, the group was received by representatives from the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) and the National Police Administration.

The MOI's department of household administration, which is responsible for drafting a comprehensive immigration policy, stated that it would consider including migrant workers in the policy.

"Although no conclusion was reached during today's meeting in regard to our three calls, I was pleased with the government's sincerity in having invited several cross-administration representatives to talk to us," Ku said.

In response, the CLA said that the purpose of the six-year restriction was to curb immigration by long-term residents -- previously, they could apply for naturalization -- and to prevent a loss of revenues. Fees paid by employers who hire foreign migrant workers are reduced over time.

Article 52 of the Employment Service Law (就業服務法) stipulates that a blue-collar foreign worker cannot be employed here for more than an accumulated six years.

"This law was enacted before the amendment to the Immigration Law (國籍法), which then stated that a foreigner might become eligible for naturalization after five years' residency. The six-year restriction was set to prevent aberrant immigration," Liao Wei-jen (廖為仁), a section chief in charge of foreign labor affairs at the CLA, said yesterday.

Furthermore, Liao added, a company that has employed a foreign worker for more than five consecutive years is entitled to pay lower fees and other benefits.

As immigration problems are no longer a concern, Liao said the elimination of the six-year employment restriction was likely.

Liao said differences in policies governing the employment of blue and white-collar foreign workers did not indicate discrimination.

"The importation of blue-collar foreign worker has been a supplementary policy, where supply meets demand ... the employment of white-collar foreigner workers has been policy for societal-effectiveness," Liao said.

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