Braving the chilly weather, dozens of laid off employees from Wintek Corp and labor association representatives gathered in front of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) building yesterday to protest alleged illegal labor practices.
On Dec. 18, Wintek, a leading supplier of mobile phone displays, laid off more than 100 employees from one of its branch factories without warning or room for negotiation, workers said.
The wave of layoffs brought the total of workers the company has laid off recently to more than 1,000.
The protesters urged the council to look into the matter and declare the employers’ practices illegal.
They also held up signs that said: “Black-hearted government ignores workers,” “Give me back my worker’s rights” and “We want zero-interest labor loans.”
Four pregnant women were among the laid off workers, which was a clear violation of the Labor Standards Law (勞動基準法), the workers said.
“Before we received the notices on Dec. 18, we had been taking unpaid leave since the beginning of the month,” said a pregnant laid off worker surnamed Shen (沈).
“Even though we were on unpaid leave, we were still expected to show up for work,” she said.
Although Shen was already eight months into her pregnancy, Wintek said they were not aware that some of the workers were pregnant when they announced the redundancies.
The workers accused the employer of forcing them to take unpaid leave to decrease their average salaries, thereby lowering the amount of severance pay owed to laid off workers.
“Year after year, workers slave for their companies and put in overtime until they die of over-work,” said Chu Wei-li (朱維立), president of the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions.
“The government puts so much effort into helping businesses with their finances, but workers don’t get any effective bailout plans,” he said.
After about half an hour of the protest, Wang Hou-wei (王厚偉), section chief of the council’s Department of Labor Management Relations, met the workers and invited them inside the building for talks.
He said laying off pregnant workers was a violation of labor regulations because it is more difficult for a pregnant woman to find another job.
On behalf of the council, Wang promised that the council would mediate the negotiations between Wintek and its workers.
In response, Wintek said yesterday there was little chance it would accept the request from laid off workers to restore their jobs, citing the severe economic slump.
“We cut jobs because of bleak business,” company spokesman James Chen (陳政慧) told the Taipei Times via telephone. “We did not lay off the workers just because they are pregnant. Decisions were based on an annual performance review.”
Wintek laid off about 700 workers at the company’s two plants in Taiwan after posting NT$890 million (US$26.8 million) in losses in the first three quarters of last year.
Chen said the company would continue to talk to those workers.