Wed, Jan 07, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Labor groups protest to push shorter work hours

ABOLISH 84:Civic groups took aim at the raising of the overtime cap and Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act, saying it was a back door for unscrupulous businesses

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter

Members of the Taiwan Labor Front protest in front of the Ministry of Labor in Taipei yesterday, calling on the government to reduce the maximum number of weekly work hours.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

A coalition of labor groups rallied in front of the Ministry of Labor building yesterday, saying that a proposed amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) failed to shorten work hours for the “overworked nation.”

Although the ministry’s proposed amendment would shorten work hours from 84 hours per two weeks to 40 hours per week, it also plans to increase the legal cap for overtime to 60 hours a week, from 46 hours.

With the proposed amendment being evaluated by the Executive Yuan, ministry officials said that they hope for it to pass during the Legislative Yuan’s next session, which is to begin next month. If passed, the new regulations would come into effect next year.

Led by the Taiwan Labor Front, the labor activists said reducing work hours to 40 hours meant little without other reforms, adding that Article 84 of the act — which lists certain occupations as exempt from the cap on work hours — should be abolished.

The activists described Article 84 as a “back door” that allows businesses to overwork employees.

Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-liam (孫友聯) said that Taiwanese work an average of 2,124 hours a year, a figure that is much higher than average working hours in the US, Japan, and Germany, which stand at 1,788; 1,735 and 1,388 hours per year respectively.

“Taiwan has already become an ‘overworked nation,’” Son said, adding that long hours have not brought economic growth.

The activists demanded that national working hours be lowered to less than 2,000 hours a year.

Kaohsiung Confederation of Trade Unions president Chiang Chien-hsing (江健興) said that out of 32 cases of karoshi — a Japanese word that means “death from overwork” — 11 were security guards, who are not protected by the cap on working hours.

In response, the ministry said the decision to increase the amount of overtime work from 46 to 60 hours a week was made after engaging in more than 30 meetings with labor groups and business organizations, adding that work hours are capped at 12 hours per day to protect workers from overwork.

The ministry added that it has continually worked to remove occupations and industries from inclusion in Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act, effectively bringing more workers under the protection of the legislation.

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