Tue, Dec 23, 2008 - Page 3 News List

CLA slammed over unpaid leave

HARD TIMES During a meeting yesterday union representatives said the Council of Labor Affairs should be directly subsidizing workers rather than their employers

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Union representatives, legislators and academics voiced their anger at the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) yesterday at the legislature’s public hearing to discuss several issues surrounding the recently soaring number of people on unpaid leave.

The legislature’s Health, Environment and Labor Committee public hearing yesterday gathered more than 100 professors, legislators, government officials and union representatives of various industries from across the country. CLA minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) was not present.

Wang’s absence angered union representatives, who said they felt she was not listening to their needs.

“What does [Wang] have to do that is more important than this? The most important thing to do now is to be here and listen to everyone’s voices,” shouted Simon Chang (張緒中), president of the Chunghwa Telecom Workers’ Union. “Taiwan needs to focus not on regulations, but attitudes.”

The CLA has been under fire because of its wavering policies regarding unpaid leave. Last week, legislators slammed the council for allowing companies to tell full-time workers to take unpaid leave to cutting pay in proportion to the number of hours cut, even if the monthly salary dips below the minimum wage of NT$17,280 per month. The council then reversed the decision a day later by saying that businesses would not be allowed to pay full-time workers below the minimum wage.

Wang said on Friday that the council had been mulling whether and how to subsidize employees or businesses in order to ensure that workers who are on unpaid leave are not laid off because the company could not afford to pay even the minimum wage. The council was supposed to unveil the details of its plan after talks with union representatives yesterday, but the meeting failed to reach any consensus.

During the meeting, union representatives spoke out about the subsidy saying that the council should directly subsidize workers, not businesses.

“Did businesses help workers? No! All they did was exploit and threaten workers,” said Ren Mu-shan (任睦杉), president of the National Trade Union Confederation, in reference to the Executive Yuan’s previous slogan, “Government helps banks, banks help businesses, businesses help workers.”

Ren said it did not make sense to subsidize businesses instead of workers on unpaid leave, because it is the workers who the council should be protecting.

The council should immediately stop the hiring of foreign laborers and decrease existing quotas for businesses hiring foreign workers to protect Taiwanese nationals from losing their jobs, he said.

“When [the foreign workers’] contracts are up, there should be no renewals,” he said.

Chiou Jiun-yan (邱駿彥), a graduate professor at the Chinese Culture University’s Department of Law, attended the meeting.

“During periods of unpaid leave, the insured amount of labor insurance should be calculated based on the worker’s original salary, which was detailed in the employment contract signed by the employer and the employee, and not based on the amount of salary paid out to the worker,” he said.

“It is important to understand that during unpaid leave, the worker has not changed anything in his or her employment contract … but only temporarily given up his or her right to the full salary amount,” he said.

CLA deputy chairman Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) responded to the union representatives by saying the council would be happy to listen to concerns to help council officials make decisions about policies regarding unpaid leave.

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