Wed, Mar 02, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Death by overwork in spotlight

WORKED TO DEATHThe labor council eased restrictions on compensation after claims that it had been turning a blind eye to increasing numbers of overwork-related deaths

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

The mother of a 29-year-old security guard surnamed Chiang, who she says died of overwork, holds her son’s portrait at a press conference arranged by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying, right, in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Following the death of a young security guard, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) yesterday accused the Council of Labor Affairs of ignoring deaths from overwork in industries such as the private security sector.

Huang made the accusations during a press conference, accompanied by the mother of the security guard, surnamed Chiang (姜).

The 29-year-old Chiang had been an employee at a private security firm since 2001. According to the company’s policy, security guards must work 12 hours a day and get one day off every four days. Their total working hours are 288 hours per month, with 73 days of leave each year.

Chiang’s mother said her son was under severe stress from long-term overwork and died on Dec. 6 last year from a stroke while at work. She said the company refused to recognize the case as death from overwork and the family has not received any compensation.

Huang said the alleged mistreatment of the security guard was the direct result of an “unreasonable” clause in Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), which states that workers in certain industries “may arrange their own working hours, regular days off, national holidays and female workers’ night work through other agreements with their employers.”

Private security firms, which are categorized as “monitoring or intermittent jobs,” fall into this category and are taking advantage of this regulatory loophole to exploit workers, Huang said.

In response, the council said that industries and job functions that fall into the category could arrange their own working hours provided the schedule was agreed upon by both parties and that consideration was paid to the wellbeing of workers. The council would nevertheless review the types of industries and job functions that the article applies to, starting with security firms and expanding to other similar work, it said.

The council recently eased restrictions governing compensation for families of workers who die as a result of overwork. The move came after the council faced accusations it was not adequately protecting workers’ rights and turning a blind eye to the growing incidence of overwork-related deaths.

Death from overwork is especially prevalent in the developed economies of East Asia, such as Japan. However, lawmakers and labor groups have highlighted loopholes inherent in labor regulations that they say allow employers to exploit workers.

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