Sun, Sep 02, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Business chiefs demand longer hours

NINE TO FIVE?A closed-door meeting between key KMT leaders and the private sector has concluded that greater workforce flexibility is needed to lure firms back to Taiwan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Members of organizations representing unemployed workers trample on a sign reading: “Unemployment rate: 4.13 percent” as they demand access to a closed-door meeting on labor-related issues presided over by Premier Sean Chen at the Executive Yuan yesterday.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The government is open to the possibility of relaxing restrictions on the recruitment of foreign workers as an incentive to encourage China-based Taiwanese businesses to return to the country, officials said yesterday.

Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday presided over a meeting focusing on labor-related issues where business and industry leaders and heads of pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) labor groups were invited to offer their views, the last of a series of five symposiums aimed at devising ways to revive the economy.

At a post-meeting press conference, business leaders stressed that the issues brought to official attention at the three-hour closed-door meeting included advice that the government must loosen its rules on hiring foreign workers and provide separate regulations on the working hours limits for manufacturing sector workers and those in the service industry.

Chinese National Federation of Industries chairman Rock Hsu (許勝雄) described government rules — under which employers are required to contribute fees for each foreign worker they hire to a government fund which is used for vocational training projects for unemployed locals — as a “punishment” for businesses.

At a time when other countries are vying to attract Chinese investment and as soaring production and labor costs hit corporate investments, “Taiwan has to open up to more foreign workers,” Hsu said.

General Chamber of Commerce chairman Lawrence Chang (張平沼) called on the government to revise the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) to “allow for more flexibility in the regulations that govern limitations on working hours.”

In accordance with current legislation, a regular working day must not exceed eight hours and the total number of working hours should not exceed 84 hours within a two-week period.

An employer may shift working hours, provided that the total number of working hours does not exceed 48 hours per week.

According to a written proposal, the business groups suggested exemptions to existing regulations and called for the right to demand 72 extra working hours per month while adding that workers should be allowed two days off within a two week period.

They proposed that an employer be able to invoke exemption rules twice a year and that each time the exemption should be able to last for three consecutive months.

In response to the demands, Wu Ming-chi (吳明機), Vice Minister of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, said there is still room for Taiwan to recruit more workers from overseas.

The ratio of foreign blue-collar workers — about 400,000 — compared with the nation’s working population of about 11 million is about 3.78 percent, Wu said.

Council of Labor Affairs Deputy Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) said the agency was willing to review the regulations to create a win-win situation to boost economic development and to ensure the rights of local workers are protected.

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