Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Migrant workers relate stories of abusive system

SAD PLIGHT Foreign workers spoke of suffering at the hands of unscrupulous brokers and employers, with at least two Filipino workers allegedly dying of overwork

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Allegations of mistreatment and abuse of migrant workers surfaced again yesterday, with a Vietnamese woman saying she was paid less than NT$2,500 (US$75) a month while a social worker said two Filipino laborers recently died of overwork.

Two migrant workers yesterday related their sad experience working in the country in a press conference held by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩).

"I have been sold [by brokers] to six different employers since coming to Taiwan and my identification card has been confiscated," said "A-ming," an alias used by a caretaker from Vietnam.

Weeping, A-ming said she could hardly survive on her meager salary of NT$2,500 per month, not to mention repay her broker's fee and send money back home.

The caretaker came to Taiwan as a migrant worker through the introduction of a legitimate broker, but she was asked to work for employers who have no permit to hire foreign caretakers.

"They told me that I can't go out, saying that I would be seized by the police, and asked me to work every day. The work is hard," she said.

Lee Li-hua (李麗華), a social worker with the Catholic Hope Workers Center, said at the press conference that two Filipinos who were hired to work in a paper factory in Taoyuan County recently died of overwork.

"The Filipino workers were forced to work more than 16 hours a day and were not allowed any days off in an entire year," Lee said.

"The second victim once requested sick leave when he was feeling unwell, but the request was denied," Lee said.

In an annual report on global human trafficking released by the US State Department in June, Taiwan was downgraded to the "Tier 2 Watch List" for failing to increase its efforts and lacking the political will to address the problem."

The US report also said that a "significant share" of foreign workers, mainly from Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, who are lured to the country for low-skilled jobs, end up in forced labor or slavery by labor agencies and employers.

"The foreign labor broker's system has a lot to do with the trafficking problem in Taiwan," Lei said, urging the government to abolish the broker system.

While the Council of Labor Affairs has said that brokers are allowed to charge the worker's first month's salary as the broker's fee on top of a 10 percent share of the worker's monthly salary as administration fee, Lei said that "this is not the real situation."

"I know that some migrant workers use the first three months of their salary to pay their brokers. Some even pay up to 20 months of their salary," Lei said.

"Many brokers also `detain' the migrant workers' identification cards on the pretext that this is a safeguard to prevent them from running away," Lei said.

"[That's the] same thing they do with their [the workers'] salaries, keeping up to 90 percent of the amount," Lei said, allegedly to prevent them from fleeing.

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