Sat, Apr 25, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Aborigines struggle to find work

OBSTACLES The Catholic Rerum Novarum Center said it had witnessed cases of discrimination against Aborigines leading to unfair treatment in the workplace

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite government promises to create more jobs and help Aborigines find work, most Aborigines lack stable, long-term employment, a Catholic group said yesterday.

“Because of the language barrier, cultural differences and discrimination, Aboriginal workers are the ones suffering the most in the economic crisis,” said Stephana Wei (韋薇), director of the Catholic Rerum Novarum Center, which provides services to Aboriginal and foreign workers.

“The government promised 85,000 employment opportunities at job fairs, while also promising to create between 190,000 and 220,000 jobs in 2009,” Wei said. “Sadly, most Aborigines — some of whom are very skilled — still don’t have a stable job.”

She said many employers, including government contractors, were dumping local workers in favor of foreign workers whom they can pay less.

“Although this happens to all [blue-collar] workers ... it’s a more severe problem since Aborigines are less willing to protest and are more likely just to quit if treated unfairly at work,” Wei said. “The government should do something to solve this problem.”

The group has witnessed discrimination against Aborigines, she said, another factor in the unfair treatment of Aboriginal workers.

Hsu Chung-yung (徐忠永), a 53-year-old Aboriginal worker from Nantou County, told his story at a press conference at the legislature.

Hsu, who once worked for a government subcontractor, said he had five professional licenses, qualifying him to do land surveying, welding, operation of heavy machinery and truck driving.

“But [my employer] never asked me to do the jobs I’m trained to do; they asked me to do all sorts of work that I am not familiar with and complained that I couldn’t do my job well and cut my salary,” Hsu said. “They also wanted me not to sign up for labor insurance, saying that they would pay me more that way.”

Hsu was fired without compensation and did not receive pension for his work with the employer because he was not on labor insurance.

Tu Li-fang (杜麗芳) said the government only offered short-term jobs.

“I’m working at a job created by the government as part of its employment plan that will be over by June. I don’t know what I’ll do afterwards,” Tu said.

“The government should come up with something more substantive. Right now, it’s like they’re giving us candy that we’re not allowed to eat,” Tu said.

Council of Indigenous Peoples official Wang Mei-ping (王美蘋) defended the council’s efforts, saying it had helped create thousands of jobs for Aborigines.

“We have an Aboriginal employment hotline and 94 employment specialists stationed in Aboriginal communities across the country,” Wang said.

Asked about job security for Aborigines, Wang said: “It’s the job of the Council of Labor Affairs.”

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