Sat, Feb 25, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Filipino workers file class-action lawsuit against labor agents

Staff Writer, with CNA

A group of more than 200 Filipino workers have filed a class-action lawsuit with prosecutors, alleging exploitation by their labor brokers, an official from the Philippines Department of Justice said yesterday.

The workers, hired at Hsinchu Science Park, took the step late last year following months of not receiving their wages, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Their wages were allegedly withheld to pay off high-interest loans that were owed to their labor brokers, the official said, without giving further details.

He said that if the allegations were proven to be true, they would constitute human trafficking and could affect labor exports to Taiwan.

A labor broker, meanwhile, said there is a long history of Filipino workers being exploited by brokers who charge high interest rates on loans, but added that most workers choose to endure the abuse and remain silent.

A recent labor fraud case in the US involving Taiwanese diplomat Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍) could encourage workers to fight for their rights, the broker said, predicting that more suits are likely to follow if the 200-plus workers succeed in getting compensation.

To secure employment in Taiwan, a Filipino needs to spend 100,000 pesos (US$2,340) on average, said Amadeo Perez Jr, chairman and chief executive of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, which is the Philippines’ de facto embassy in Taiwan.

Many people who cannot afford these expenses turn to their brokers for loans, he said.

Meanwhile, a first round of inspections into companies that contract out temporary workers found widespread violations, with half of them breaches of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), the Council of Labor Affairs said yesterday.

From July to September last year, the council conducted inspections of 60 companies that supply temporary workers — often called “dispatch” workers in Taiwan — to private companies and public agencies.

Liu Chuan-min (劉傳名), director of the council’s Department of Labor Relations, said 16 temporary manpower agencies fully conformed to regulations, while the remaining 44 were guilty of a total of 169 violations.

Of the violations, 82 failed to meet the legal requirements, mainly because they did not set work guidelines, sign contracts with workers or ensure the workers had a day off every seven days.

Another 35 violations were related to the Labor Pension Act (勞工退休金條例) and 52 violations were related to the Labor Insurance Act (勞工保險條例).

Sixteen companies were found to have five or more violations and they were asked to make immediate improvements, and turned over to local authorities for disciplinary action.

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