Tue, Jan 18, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Union group calls for fewer limits

LABOR RIGHTS Debates over proposed changes to three laws center on restrictions on the right to strike and how and where labor disputes should be resolved

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Proposed amendments to Labor Union Law (工會法), the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law (勞資爭議處理法) and the Collective Agreement Law (團體協約法), if passed during this legislative session, would overhaul the labor laws.

"Some might say this push for ... the amendments was rushed, but that is not true. The laws were established more than 70 years ago and have not been amended since," Labor Affairs Council Vice Chairman Lai Ching-lin (賴勁麟) said yesterday.

The Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU) held a press conference to urge lawmakers to pass its version of the draft.

The two main points of controversy are whether school teachers can form labor unions and the rights of unions in certain industries to strike during labor disputes.

In two of the draft versions, amendments to article 51 of the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law would restrict the rights of certain workers to strike, including employees of the Ministry of Defense and of utility companies, as well as air traffic controllers, teachers and military personnel.

"The services these entities provide largely affect the everyday lives of the people and strikes by these workers may pose social and public security concerns," Lai said.

The version the TCTU drafted does not include the restrictions, and instead holds the central government accountable to help resolve labor disputes.

In a statement released by the TCTU yesterday, the confederation said the amendment to article 51 in its version was something that could not be compromised, as it affects the rights of all workers.

One of other two versions would allow for a "cooling period," which restricts the right to strike in the designated industries, but allows for the government to step in to resolve disputes within 30 days.

"Having a cooling period is a more realistic method, given how labor unions operate in Taiwan today," Lai said.

The amendment also aims to give more autonomy to unions and expedite the dispute arbitration.

"Existing laws give employers a lot of power to interfere with labor unions' affairs through inappropriate means, and the amendment would give labor unions and labor workers more rights," Lai said.

The amendment, if passed, may allow disputes to either be settled through administrative or judicial court arbitration.

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