Wed, Sep 07, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Lawmakers push for labor changes

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsu Chong-hsiung (徐中雄) yesterday proposed a mandatory "state-to-state" importation system for foreign labor, at least for major government projects, in a bid to eliminate unreasonable brokerage fees.

"The crux of the nation's foreign labor problems lies in the brokerage fees," Hsu said. "To prevent foreign workers from being exploited and overcharged, they should be imported by one government agency, preferably the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training under the Council of Labor Affairs."

To that end, Hsu proposed an act for the mandatory "state-to-state" importation of foreign labor and an amendment to the Employment Services Act (就業服務法).

Hsu made the proposal during a public hearing to discuss possible responses to last month's riot by Thai workers in Kaohsiung City.

The incident led Council of Labor Affairs Chairwoman Chen Chu (陳菊) and acting Kaohsiung City mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) to resign.

Echoing Hsu's proposal, Wu Jing-ru (吳靜如), chairperson of the Taiwan International Workers' Association, said that the nation's brokerage system is to blame for problems involving mistreatment of foreign workers, and that current regulations applicable to foreign laborers fail to effectively control brokerage companies.

"What is desperately needed is to thoroughly overhaul the brokerage system," she said. "Only with a `state-to-state' importation system for foreign laborers can the problems with foreign workers be solved, because the government will be responsible for the importation of foreign workers, as well as overseeing their safety and living conditions."

According to Wu, a foreign worker from Thailand has to pay between NT$100,000 to NT$180,000 before coming to Taiwan. After coming here, Wu said, a foreign laborer has to pay NT$1,800 per month for the first year, NT$1,700 for the second year and NT$1,500 the third year.

On top of all the fees, Wu said that dishonest brokerage companies charge foreign laborers other kinds of fees, which can amount to an additional NT$18,000 a month.

Dishonest brokerage companies can also come up with diverse excuses and intimidation measures to put foreign workers under their heel, she said.

Citing the example of his former domestic helper, Hsu said she had to sell an ox to pay the NT$80,000 brokerage fee in the Philippines before coming to Taiwan. Hsu said that she told him she paid a total of NT$150,000 in brokerage fees.

Reverend Peter Nguyen (阮文雄) from the Workers' Center, a Taoyuan-based Catholic organization that assists immigrant workers, cited three examples to demonstrate the abuse Vietnamese workers suffer here and in their home country.

One of the examples is a common phenomenon in Yunlin, Kaohsiung and Tainan where workers are forced to sign a contract only hours before coming to Taiwan. While it is not specified in the contract that the worker has to borrow any money from the brokerage agency here, Wu said that the Taiwanese company took the liberty of including that stipulation later.

KMT Legislator Hou Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳) said that the government should pay attention to the welfare of domestic workers.

She said that Che Chu should have stayed on at her post and tried to solve the problems, instead of rushing to tender her resignation.

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