Fri, Mar 13, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Minister grilled about caretakers

SHAME:DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo criticized the labor ministry for ignoring demands that it improve the working conditions of migrant workers in Taiwan

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter

Protestors wrap themselves in chains and wear signs saying “slave” yesterday at an event in Taipei organized by the Migrant Empowerment Network in Taiwan.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators yesterday drilled Minister of Labor Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文) over plans to introduce foreign labor from Myanmar amid an expected shortfall of domestic caretakers.

During a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee in Taipei, Chen said that the ministry is seeking to “diversify” its sources of foreign labor after Indonesia decided to gradually prohibit its citizens from seeking employment as household caretakers in Taiwan beginning in 2017.

He said the ministry would engage in further negotiations with Myanmar by the end of this month, adding that Burmese workers would likely initially be employed in jobs related to livestock, butchery and animal husbandry.

Chen added that migrant workers in the agricultural sector would “stay out of farming villages” and focus on meat-related industries instead, in response to concerns that foreign workers might compete for job opportunities with young Taiwanese in rural areas.

DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) criticized the ministry for ignoring the Indonesian government’s demands that it improve the working conditions of migrant workers.

“Our ministry was still negotiating with Indonesia in December last year, but soon afterward it started spreading word through the media that it does not matter whether Indonesians stop coming to Taiwan, because we have Burmese workers. What is going on?” Liu asked.

The ministry should continue to communicate with migrant workers to protect their rights, given that Taiwan has “long claimed to be a nation built upon the principle of human rights,” he said.

DPP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳潔如) said that cases of collusion between ministry officials and brokerage firms are rampant across the nation.

She cited two cases in Chiayi and Tainan in which local authorities received reports of abuse from migrant workers and reportedly leaked the information back to their employers and brokerage firms.

Migrant workers often spend one to two years repaying debt to brokerage firms, which charge up to NT$210,000 per person, Chen Chieh-ju said.

Meanwhile, dozens of migrant workers and their supporters rallied outside the Legislative Yuan as the minister was questioned by legislators inside.

Headed by the Migrant Empowerment Network Taiwan, the protesters chanted multilingual slogans and waved placards that accused ministry officials of perpetuating “institutionalized forms of slave labor.”

They said that wages for foreign household caretakers have remained stagnant over the past 18 years at NT$15,840, well below the minimum wage of NT$19,273.

In response, Chen Hsiung-wen said that employers of household caretakers also must provide food and accommodation, which explains the difference in wages between caretakers and industrial laborers.

Separately, Council of Agriculture Director Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said that plans to introduce foreign labor in the livestock, butchery and animal husbandry sectors could be implemented as soon as May or June, if the negotiations with Myanmar run smoothly.

He said that the proposed regulations would require employers in the agricultural sector to maintain a four-to-one ratio of Taiwanese and foreign employees.

Indonesia’s decision to stop exporting household caretakers to Taiwan has sent ripples through the nation, as Indonesians account for about 80 percent of the nation’s 220,000 foreign caretakers.

This story has been viewed 2773 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top