Sat, Jan 10, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Firms put 200,000 on unpaid leave

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A recent survey conducted by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) suggested that about 200,000 people are on unpaid leave, but labor associations said the CLA figures drastically underestimated the actual numbers.

Last month, CLA conducted a telephone survey of 2,953 companies with 200 employees or more. Of the different methods used by companies to cut salary costs, sending workers on unpaid leave was the most popular method, with 17.8 percent of the companies surveyed using the practice. Other belt-tightening measures included “decreasing work hours” at 1.9 percent, “paid leave” at 4.9 percent, and “pay cuts” at 3.1 percent.

The average employee was on unpaid leave four days a month, the survey showed. The majority of them work in the manufacturing industry, with about 185,000 people on unpaid leave, comprising 30.9 percent of the entire industry.

Some industries, however, were not affected at all, such as finance and insurance-related companies, medical care and clinical services, arts and culture, and recreation and leisure facilities.

About 134,000 workers on unpaid leave were from companies with more than 500 employees.

In the past few weeks, the council has come under fire from legislators and labor associations for its failure to protect workers against unfair business practices and the lack of information on unpaid leave.

Although the council has obtained figures on the severity of the forced-leave situation, some question the validity of the survey, as it did not survey companies with fewer than 200 employees.

“The CLA has underestimated the actual number by about 200,000 to 300,000 people,” said Chu Wei-li (朱維立), president of the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions (NAFITU).

Businesses that are hit the hardest by the economic downturn are mostly medium and small-sized companies, but they have not been included in the survey, Chu said.

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