Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - Page 4 News List

‘Shelter factory’ directors urge a rethink

By Ho Yu-hua  /  Staff reporter

The New Taipei City Labor Affairs Department has for years been making efforts to transfer workers from its 20 “shelter factories”— vocational training facilities for the mentally or physically challenged — to private-sector establishments, but has met with limited success, prompting a number of shelter factory directors to urge the local government to rethink the purpose of the facilities.

The department’s policies on the shelter factories stipulate that at least one worker at each facility should be transferred to private business annually. However, of the 63 members transferred last year, only 10 were accepted — the others remain unemployed.

Tzu Yu Shelter Factory director Yu Mei-lien (游美連) said that there has been very few successful examples of transfers and that the department should not view the facilities as ordinary vocational training centers, but should rather establish more shelter factories to accommodate the disadvantaged and offer them an opportunity to leave their home and go to work.

New Taipei City Labor Affairs Department Commissioner Hsieh Cheng-da (謝政達) conceded that “the effects [of the transfers] have been limited.”

Hsieh said many parents do not approve of their children being transferred to posts in the private sector because their children have become accustomed to their work at the shelter factories, and leaving the shelter factory would likely have a negative effect on them.

He said accommodating transfers often menas sacrificing efficiency at the facilities, as the more capable shelter factory members are often the ones that are transferred first.

Moreover, he said, private firms are not enthusiastic about employing workers from the shelter factories due to a lack of understanding of their abilities.

Yu said the department has been promoting the shelter factories in the hope that business owners might gain a better understanding of the facilities and that collaborative internship programs have been carried out, as once members become employees in the private sector they are protected under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and are better paid.

However, reality is not as rosy as the city government had expected, Yu said, as even the more capable members of the shelter factories can be isolated by their new colleagues or become overwhelmed by the high level of competitiveness in the private sector. As a result, they hope in vain that they can return to their former workplace, because their previous job has been given to a new member.

“As a result, they wind up staying at home again, causing their parents more worries,” she said.

Yu said that while she agrees that shelter factories should collaborate with private enterprises, business owners need to show more empathy for the disadvantaged if this method is to be sustainable.

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