Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 4 News List

CLA bars foreign workers

CHEAPER A workers' rights consultant said financially strapped firms would rather go out of business if they were forced to hire more expensive domestic workers

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Starting today, the Council of Labor Affairs will stop accepting applications from manufacturers that wish to hire foreign workers for “three shift” production.

Council Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) promised last month that the council would put the interests of domestic workers ahead of those of foreign workers and would slash 30,000 jobs held by foreign workers.

The council has approved a revision of the Reviewing Standards and Employment Qualifications for Foreigners Engaging in the Jobs Specified in Items 8 to 11, Paragraph 1 to Article 46 of the Employment Service Act (就業服務法). Starting today, the council will not accept applications — called the Permit to Recruit Foreign Person(s) — by businesses seeking to hire foreign workers for manufacturing work or late shifts.

“Currently, the unemployment rate is high, so domestic workers are more willing to take late shifts,” said Chen I-min (陳益民), director-general of the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training. “The hiring of foreign labor is supplementary and shouldn’t cause domestic workers to lose their jobs.”

Chen said the revision would reduce foreign labor by 30,000 people this year, as the council had promised earlier.

The council said it would work with the Ministry of Economic Affairs on programs to hire foreign labor if the economy improves in the future. It also said the revision to the Act would be reviewed at the end of this year.

Taiwan International Workers Association consultant Lorna Kung (龔尤倩) criticized the policy as being a “mythical tale” that would not solve the unemployment problem.

“From the way the government has handled the situation, we can see how it treats foreign laborers. They are let in when the economy is doing well and sent out when the economy is bad,” she said.

The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics on Thursday released the unemployment numbers for the month of January, which was 5.31 percent, meaning some 578,000 people were out of work across the nation.

Saying she understood that high unemployment was putting pressure on government officials, Kung said the plan would not work because the problem was rooted in industry structure.

“Foreign labor is cheaper [than domestic labor]. Factories that are in [financial] trouble would close down rather than hire domestic workers,” she said. “So it’s impossible that when 30,000 foreign workers leave they will be replaced by 30,000 domestic workers.”

In related news, the bureau loosened restrictions for its on-the-job training program, which was launched in December.

To encourage companies to provide training for their employees instead of laying them off during the production slowdown, the Plan of Promoting Employment Skill in the Short-term subsidizes on-the-job training for both workers and companies.

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