Wed, Nov 10, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Labor groups question CLA cuts

QUESTIONABLE:Activists criticized the CLA’s priorities with regard to its spending policies — cutting subsidies from social welfare programs while purchasing new cars

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

Civic groups yesterday voiced concern that budget cuts for the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), coupled with what they said were “questionable” spending policies at the council, could undermine protection of labor rights.

The Taiwan Labor Front and the Alliance for Fair Tax Reform told a press conference that after subtracting the NT$49.7 billion (US$1.65 billion) in subsidies from government-funded social welfare programs such as the National Labor Insurance, the council’s budget for next year had dropped by NT$30 million.

As a result, budgets for council programs were cut across the board, with the exception of administrative costs and transportation, Alliance for Fair Tax Reform convener Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋) said.

Wang said rising administrative costs and transportation expenses translated into maintenance and repair work at council offices and the purchase of new cars for CLA Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) and other council officials.

“At a time when so many people are out of jobs, shouldn’t the council focus on helping workers rather than buying cars?” Wang Jung-chang asked.

Taiwan Labor and Social Policy Research Association executive director Chang Feng-yi (張烽益) accused the council of having unreasonable expense policies, with spending cuts on employment training subsidies for the physically and mentally challenged, among others.

The groups urged the council to allocate more resources to inspections of work-related injuries and improvement in work environment safety.

In response, the council said the budget allocation for the Employment Security Fund has been increased, from NT$14 billion this year to NT$16 billion next year, which showed the council remained committed to protecting the nation’s workers.

As for the new cars, the council said the current fleet was being replaced for safety concerns, as its vehicles had reached their mileage limit.

In related developments, the council said it was mulling loosening restrictions on compensation for workers who die from high stress in the workplace.

Jennifer Wang said the council was working on establishing methods to classify death from overworking. She said this should be completed in the next few months.

“We are gathering research [findings] from academics and experts around the world,” she said. “[The council is] mulling legislation to ensure up-to-date information for the classification of death from overwork.”

The death of a 29-year-old engineer at Nanya Technology Corp early this year triggered criticism from lawmakers and labor activists, who said the council was doing nothing while the nation’s workers were being “worked to death.”

The man, surnamed Hsu (徐), began working at Nanya in 2006 as an engineer and frequently worked overtime — as much as 139 hours a month. Before his death, Hsu had been putting in about 80 hours of overtime each month for half a year. His parents found him dead in front of his computer at home on Jan. 11.

Despite signs that Hsu died from overwork as a result of a high-stress work environment — leading to cardiogenic shock in a young and healthy adult — the court said the death was unrelated to his occupation.

In the case, the council was accused of turning a blind eye to hazardous work environments and the near impossibility under the current system of getting fair compensation for overwork-related deaths.

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