Thu, Jan 27, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Groups slam CLA for treatment of foreign workers

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Three of 112 Filipina workers transferred to new employers by a lottery, and not even knowing where they were going till they ended in their new respective factories, protest against their treatment when participating in a press conference yesterday, where labor rights groups urged the Council of Labor Affairs to make the transfer of foreign migrant workers from one employer to another a transparent process.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Labor rights groups yesterday urged the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to make the transfer of foreign migrant workers from one employer to another a more transparent process.

On Jan. 20, 112 Filipina female workers were put up for rehire at Sanchung employment center, which is run by the CLA's Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training, where they were each represented by a number and selected by new potential employers through a lottery.

"These 112 women, who formerly worked on an assembly line at a high-tech IC factory, were chosen by their new employers through a lottery, and did not even know where they were going till they ended up in their new respective factories," said Ku Yu-ling (顧玉玲), secretary-general of the Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA).

The IC company, which was called Fastfame, went bust at the end of last year. It's owners absconded and left several months of employees' salaries unpaid.

In a press conference, TIWA showed a video clip of the lottery re-hiring system.

In the clip, the workers looked both anxious and excited about their new jobs.

The new factories, where these women were reassigned, often turned out to be vastly different from their previous employment, and most involved heavy machinery and intensive manual labor was demanded.

"I was sent to an iron works, and that place was no place for a woman to be. There were large vessels everywhere, and the work was very dangerous," said Meriam Young, one of 112 female workers who had been re-assigned.

The dormitory where Young and three other workers were sent was reeking with stench, and they were confined to the factory premises alone after work hours, she said.

Some employers were shocked to see female workers showing up at the door.

"Some employers would realize that they had picked workers of the wrong gender. Together with the manpower agencies, they would repatriate the unwanted workers right away," Ku said.

Once the workers had been repatriated, the employer was free to hire new migrant workers to fill their foreign worker quotas.

This month, TIWA succeeded in several "rescue operations" of migrant workers who were about to be deported, as well as some who had ended up in squalid living conditions.

"The bureau didn't seem to be able to supervise the employment transfer process, which gave manpower agencies the opportunity to engage in unethical activities," said Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Tuoh (王拓).

The association urged the CLA to restrict the worker's new job to the same industry as the worker's previous job.

In response, the CLA stated that employment transfer system was set up in a way to allow for re-employment flexibility.

"The transfer system doesn't seem to have considered workers' rights, because the way it was designed, it was intended that foreign migrant workers who were out of a job might be able to find employment elsewhere -- and not be restricted by limitation of a particular type of industry," said Tsai Meng-liang (蔡孟良), a section chief at the council's department of foreign labor affairs.

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