Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) has pledged to conduct a comprehensive review of the personnel system at Chunghwa Post after the state-run postal company was listed by the Council of Labor Affairs as the nation’s third-largest sweatshop.
Based on the council’s labor standards inspection report last year, the postal firm had 48 recorded violations of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法). About one-third of violations concerned irregularities found on employees’ attendance sheets.
The postal firm was fined NT$428,000 (US$14,270) for violations of the Labor Standards Act and the council also named it one of the largest sweatshops in the nation, behind only KFC and MacDonald’s.
Lawmakers of the legislature’s Transportation Committee had received complaints from workers of Chunghwa Post, particularly from mail delivery personnel. Because of these petitions, the committee on Thursday asked Mao to report on how the ministry planned to protect the interests of employees in view of the labor disputes.
“We have to clear ourselves from the reputation of being a sweatshop,” Mao said. “This [the notorious title] is simply unacceptable.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said the company could soon be the No.1 sweat shop if it fails to improve working conditions. DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said postal workers in Greater Tainan had suffered retribution because they asked lawmakers for help when they asked headquarters for more delivery personnel.
In response, Mao promised to settle the disputes by reviewing and reforming the personnel system over the summer.
“First and foremost we need to adhere to the rules stated in the Labor Standards Act,” Mao said.
Mao added that some less efficient workers might abuse the system to claim more overtime pay and would end up being paid more than more efficient workers. He said the reformed system must prevent this from happening.
Chunghwa Post chairman Oliver Yu (游芳來) said many postal workers have had problems adjusting to the regulations in the Labor Standards Act.
“In the past, mail delivery workers could come to mail rooms early and sort the mail as early as 7am,” Yu said. “If they could have all the mail delivered by 12pm, they could get off work without having to sign anything. However, the Labor Standards Act requires them to record the times they start and finish work.”
Yu added that the company would gradually reduce the number of contractors — currently 668 — hired to deliver mail.
This hiring practice had made Chunghwa Post the target of criticism, as labor rights advocates had accused the firm of using it to avoid following the Labor Standards Act, he said.
“It [the practice] has hurt the image of Chunghwa Post, even though it was originally intended to increase jobs in certain localities,” Yu said. “We will try to help them become formal employees through the civil service examinations.”