Sat, Apr 25, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Academics, unions call for stronger right to strike

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Academics and labor representatives discussed the problem of how to resolve work disputes yesterday, offering suggestions to strengthen the right to strike.

As part of activities to mark the 25th anniversary of the Taiwan Labour Front, labor association representatives and academics gathered to examine labor policies and potential improvements.

During the panel discussion, Lin Chia-ho (林佳和), an assistant professor of law at National Chengchi University, criticized a proposed amendment to the Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes Act (勞資爭議處理法) that would require workers in certain industries to provide a “minimum level” of service in the event of a strike.

The Cabinet approved amendments earlier this month that would remove some obstacles to going on strike, with provisions for utilities and other key services.

Current legislation stipulates that union members must vote in person at an assembly on whether to strike. If the amendments pass, union members would be able to vote by other means.

But the amendment would require water, electric and gas utilities, medical institutions and financial institutions such as the Taiwan Stock Exchange, the Taiwan Futures Exchange, Taiwan Depository & Clearing, GRETAI Securities Market and Financial Information Service to provide a “minimum level” of service in the event of a strike.

The definition of “minimum level” is to be agreed upon between workers and employers prior to the strike.

“If I were a corporate lawyer, I would tell the employers not to reach the agreement on a ‘minimum level’ so the workers would never be able to go on strike,” Lin said.

Professor Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君) of National Chengchi University’s Institute for Labour Research urged government officials to avoid forcing workers to turn to the courts to settle disputes, saying “it just doesn’t work.”

“Disputes about rights items can only be solved through judicial procedures, but in reality, suing is a long and hard road for workers,” she said.

The proposed amendment specifies “rights items” as disputes over wages and overtime pay and stipulates that they cannot be negotiated by going on strike.

Disputes over these items can only be handled through mediation according to the amendment.

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