Tue, Jul 26, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Cutting wages for sitting down is illegal: activists

HARMFUL:Store clerks are at risk of developing occupational diseases, such as jogger’s heel, because they stand for hours every day, a union member said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Many department stores breach work safety rules by fining store clerks for sitting down, workers’ rights activists said yesterday, adding that outsourcing management at the stores complicates the appeal process.

“What we really need is an across-the-board system for us to be able to sit down while at work,” a union member, identified only as “Miss A,” said at a news conference held by Youth Labor Union 95. “Floor managers are free to make up their own administrative rules, and there are all sorts of things they can pick on if they want to give you a hard time.”

She said store clerks often face pay cuts ranging between NT$200 and NT$500 out of their daily salaries of less than NT$1,000 if they are caught sitting down, with standing for long hours every day leading to a range of occupational diseases such as plantar fasciitis, or jogger’s heel, and varicose veins.

Taiwan Labor and Social Policy Research Association executive director Chang Feng-yi (張烽益) said the fines violate the Occupational Safety and Health Act (職業安全衛生法).

“Facility rules [of the act] are very clear that employers are required to provide chairs for employees who stand for long stretches to allow them to rest,” he said, adding that department stores were included within the scope of the rule as “managers” of the facilities in which clerks work.

The persistence of fines and lack of chairs could be attributed to lax government oversight, he said.

Youth Labor Union 95 president Catta Chou (周于萱) said that while floor managers technically fine individual booths and counters, employers invariably deduct the fines from employees’ salaries.

“The result is that if you want to fight for your rights, you can only target your employer, even though the real conflict is between yourself and the department store,” she said, adding that employers “tacitly approve” of department store management by choosing not to defend their employees against the fines.

“Salary deductions are also illegal, but employees have to be willing to fight over them for the issue to be addressed,” she said, adding that many employees are unwilling get into conflict with their employees.

She said her union only has 20 members, attributing the low number to clerks’ long hours and limited holidays, leaving little time to participate in union events.

“Miss A” said that floor managers impose fines for sitting as part of efforts to maintain store image, adding booth operators might not contest the fines out of fear of losing their rented space.

She added that clerks who confronted their employers over wage cuts were able to win their money back as long as they had a basic understanding of the law.

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