Mon, Jun 08, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Critics pan amendment to labor law

‘MAKES NO SENSE’Labor groups and academics said that some clauses in the amendment would allow firms to indefinitely prevent unions from declaring a legal strike

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A recently passed amendment to labor laws that will loosen restrictions on unions’ ability to strike sparked anger and criticism among labor representatives and academics yesterday, who said the government had put too many restrictions on workers in certain sectors.

The Settlement of Labor-­Management Dispute Act (勞資爭議處理法) initially stipulated that union members must vote on whether to support a strike by attending an assembly and voting in person, a rule that is generally regarded as a means to deter strikers.

The amendment the legislature passed on Friday would allow a union to announce a strike as long as more than half of its members show support by an anonymous vote, but without requiring all members to attend a union assembly in person, which is difficult for large unions.

However, labor groups including the Taiwan Labor Front and the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions (NAFITU) slammed a requirement in the amendment that “rights items,” such as employment contracts, collective bargaining agreements or other legally based agreements must be settled by means of judicial arbitration because the process often drags out, putting workers at a disadvantage.

The amendment also requires that industries dealing with public safety, including water, electric and gas utilities as well as medical institutions, set a “minimum level” of service in the event of a strike.

The minimum level must be negotiated between management and workers before a strike begins.

Lin Chia-ho (林佳和), an assistant professor of law at National Chengchi University, criticized the clause, saying that it was similar to “asking for an opponent’s permission before starting a fight.”

As long as an employer refuses to reach an agreement with the union on what constitutes a “minimum level” of service, a union would be unable to legally announce a strike, he said.

The amendment “imposes more restrictions on laborers” and “makes no sense,” he said.

“No industry should be denied the right to strike,” said Son Yu-lian (孫友聯), secretary-general of the Taiwan Labor Front.

NAFITU president Chu Wei-li (朱維立) said that even if the law gave workers the right to strike, it did not mean they would announce a strike whenever a labor-management conflict arises.

Rather, it would give unions more bargaining power when negotiating with management, Chu said.

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