In anticipation of opposition from industries to a draft amendment that would remove an obstacle to going on strike, union representatives and academics urged the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to stand its ground.
The council recently completed a proposed revision of the Labor Union Law (工會法) and Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes Act (勞資爭議處理法) that would loosen restrictions against striking in most sectors. Teachers, public office workers and Ministry of National Defense staff would be the only exclusions to the new rules.
If passed, labor unions would no longer be required to convene an assembly to vote on whether to strike, which can be difficult for large unions.
A union would be permitted to call a strike if at least half of its members approved it in an anonymous vote.
However, industries that concern public safety, including water, electric and gas utilities as well as medical institutions, would still require a “minimum level” of service in the event of a strike.
The minimum level must be negotiated between management and workers before the strike begins.
“The objective of the amendment is to seek stability in relations between management and workers, not to encourage workers to go on strike,” Council of Labor Affairs Deputy Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) said.
Pan said the council also planned to establish an arbitration system to give workers another option for negotiation through a neutral third-party.
“[The amendment] seeks to avoid conflicts, not start [them],” he said.
Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-lian (孫友聯) said strikes were a “last resort” for workers. Workers do not go on strike without carefully weighing the potential impact on society, he said.
Son regretted that the council’s amendment would exclude teachers.
“It is still a shame that teachers can’t go on strike,” he said.
Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions secretary-general Hsieh Tsuan-chih (謝創智) expressed concern that some government agencies and businesses would lobby against the plan.
“We hope the CLA will stand its ground and not exempt more industries” from the amendment, he said.
Lin Jia-he (林佳和), an assistant professor of law at National Chengchi University, said the public should not think that the amendment would prompt more strikes and hurt economic productivity.
“On the contrary, if dissatisfied workers can effectively resolve issues with their employers, they will work harder and be more productive,” he said.