In response to the apparent misuse of foreign workers by members of the group involved in the Apache helicopter tour debacle, civic groups yesterday accused the government of failing to protect the rights of foreign caregivers and the interests of Taiwanese seeking work in the caregiving field.
The incident, in which a group of civilians — dubbed by local media outlets and netizens as the “privileged group” — were given access to a restricted military hangar housing AH-64E Apache helicopters, might not only have exposed lapses in military discipline, but also revealed violations of the Employment Service Act (就業服務法).
As foreign caregivers are legally allowed only to look after severely disabled elderly people and none of the group fit that criterion, commentators have said that the four foreign caregivers in the group had been asked to undertake duties not included in their employment contracts, such as caring for children.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
It is not unusual to see foreign caregivers taking care of children, doing family chores, such as shopping, or accompanying families on day trips, the Universal Care Policy Alliance said.
“The Employment Service Act clearly prohibits ‘assigning a foreign employee work that is not within the sphere of the permit.’ The Ministry of Labor is probably the last to know, while the public is already well aware that many of the 220,000 foreign caregivers employed in the nation have been ‘multitasking,’” the alliance said.
The Ministry of Labor last year found that 70 percent of foreign caregivers work 365 days a year and 30 percent are given one day off per month.
“The authorities cannot even protect the labor rights of foreign workers now, but the government is considering lifting restrictions on the number of foreign caregivers allowed to work for lightly disabled people who are 85 and older,” the alliance said.
Government mistreatment of foreign caregivers and its attempt to further relax restrictions on their employment have reduced opportunities for Taiwanese who work in the care industry — particularly women, National Taipei University assistant professor Wang Pin (王品) said.
Alliance convener Liu Yu-hsiu (劉毓秀) called the government’s policy “incoherent,” as it calls for middle-aged Taiwanese women to start second careers as caregivers, but also plans to import more caregivers from overseas.
“Only 20,000 of the 100,000 people trained by the government as caregivers in the past seven years now actually work in that field,” she said. “What the government should do first is find out why.”
Federation for the Welfare of the Elderly director Lee Bih-tzy (李碧姿) opposed easing restrictions on foreign caregivers.
“We encourage the elderly to do as much as they can; healthy aging, rather than living long with disabilities, is the best option,” Lee said.
Workforce Development Agency Deputy Director Tsai Meng-liang (蔡孟良) said the civilian visitors to the military base would definitely be punished if they are found to have broken foreign labor laws.
“For their refusal to allow inspectors to enter the building to check on the status of their foreign workers they could be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000, and if they continue to refuse officials entry, their permit [to employ foreign labor] could be rescinded,” Tsai said.
Tsai said that the ministry has not relaxed the restriction on employing foreign caregivers, despite its preliminary conclusion that it should, and would continue with its “thorough and cautious examination of the policy.”
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