Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Plans to protect workers ready

LABOR Regulations to safeguard the rights of foreign workers may be passed soon after a US report criticized insufficient efforts to eliminate human trafficking in Taiwan

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A protection mechanism is in the pipeline to prevent employers from unreasonably laying off foreign workers, the Council of Labor Affairs announced in an official response to Taiwan's relegation to the "Tier 2 Watch List" in the US Department of State's most recent Trafficking in Persons Report.

The report, issued in June, placed Taiwan on the Watch List for its failure to address problems concerning forced labor and sexual servitude among contract workers and brides.

"Taiwan[ese] authorities do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, they are making significant efforts to do so. Taiwan is placed on [the] Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts over the past year to address trafficking, despite ample resources to do so, particularly to address the serious level of forced labor and sexual servitude among legally migrating Southeast Asian contract workers and brides," the report said.

The Council of Labor Affairs issued a report last week in which it clarified the country's efforts and policies in dealing with these issues.

According to Tsai Meng-liang (蔡孟良), head of the council's foreign labor department, the new mechanism will require employers to seek official confirmation of whether any complaint has been lodged against them before terminating a work contract with a foreign employee.

The process will have to be completed three days before the worker leaves the country, or else the employer would be prohibited from hiring new foreign workers, the council said.

The procedure can be conducted mainly through telephone interviews between the foreign worker and labor officials, Tsai said, adding that eligible employers would receive a "certificate of reasonable layoff."

Tsai told the Taipei Times that officials would also interview foreign workers in person if they "sense something wrong over the telephone."

He added that a report booth at the country's international airports would offer the workers a final opportunity to lodge complaints.

"But I am sure there is no problem in most layoffs," he said, adding that the new rule could be promulgated as soon as the end of this month.

Tsai added that a "retreat mechanism" may be implemented to "encourage outstanding agencies and disqualify inferior ones."

Agencies rated as excellent may enjoy a discounted security deposit rate, while inferior ones would be denied renewal of their brokerage permit, Tsai said.

Taiwan Labor Front chairman Sun Yu-lien (孫友聯) said that the mechanism "may be feasible."

"At least the labor council has taken the initiative," Sun said.

However, it is unlikely that inspectors would be able to discover foul play purely through telephone interviews, and face-to-face interviews may better ensure that workers' needs are met, he said.

Kao Hsiao-fan (高小帆), chief executive officer of the Taiwan Women's Rescue Foundation, said that the council's response was "passive and irresponsible."

She told the Taipei Times that the council's response failed to address the real problem.

"We were criticized by the international community because we did not show the world that we are sincere about protecting foreign workers from exploitation," she said.

Kao said that increasing the number of inspectors, report hotlines or labor centers was not the solution, because foreign workers might still suffer from an information gap or could be prevented from seeking help.

This story has been viewed 2827 times.
TOP top