“My sacrifice would be worthwhile if it could prompt the Council of Labor Affairs [CLA] to include job-related depression on its list of occupational injuries,” Chen Chiao-lien (陳巧蓮) wrote in an e-mail to the council last week.
On Tuesday Chen turned her threat into reality when she stabbed a company representative and then tried to commit suicide during a labor mediation dispute with the council.
Chen began work at Taipei-based Unitech Printed Circuit Board Corp in 1999, not long after she moved from Macau to Taiwan.
At first, Chen was one of the company’s top performers and was promoted to a lower-level management position.
However, 18 months later, Chen was removed from her management position because of quality control issues. She was soon moved to a department in which she said she was often yelled at and humiliated by her superior.
Finally, she became severely depressed and was hospitalized twice because of her mental condition.
“Her application to collect labor insurance payments was rejected on the grounds that mental illness is not listed as an occupational injury,” said Huang Hsiao-ling (黃小陵), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries.
Chen then sought help from the group, said Huang, who added that on average, about 30 people per year who seek help from the association, believed their depression to be job-related. After more than a year of protests, appeals and petitions, Chen’s application is still pending, Huang said.
“I held great expectations of the CLA at first, thinking it was [a government institution] that laborers could count on — but you have disappointed me,” Chen said in the e-mail.
“You refused to add mental illness to the work injury list, saying mental illness could be caused by multiple reasons; that it’s difficult to prove a direct link between work and mental illness; that when more injuries are listed, the employer would have to pay more labor insurance fees for each employee; that it may cause more labor disputes in the future,” Chen wrote.
“Are you there to look after the interests of employers or laborers?” she said.
After all her appeals were rejected, Chen applied for labor dispute mediation with the aim of returning to her former position.
“Unitech’s assistant human resources manager Hsu Hsin-an [�?w] only promised to take her request to be reinstated back to the company for review,” said Huang, who accompanied Chen to the meeting on Tuesday.
As Chen has already made the same request several times in previous meetings with company representatives, she was upset by Hsu’s response and tried to stab Hsu with a small knife.
“We quickly pulled her away, but Hsu was already wounded,” Huang said.
Later, Chen went to the toilet, “but we sensed that something was wrong when she stayed in there for too long and quickly ran to the restroom,” Huang said.
“When we broke into the restroom, she had already taken some pills and was unconscious,” Huang said.
Prompt action saved Chen’s life.
“However, her condition is still very unstable, and she kept yelling that she wanted to end her life,” Huang said.
“We really don’t want to see something like this happen again,” she said. “We really hope that mental illness can be added the work injury list as soon as possible.”