Mon, Aug 01, 2016 - Page 3 News List

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Government is out of touch with industry

Cheng Chi-fang  /  Staff reporter

The Executive Yuan’s last-minute decision on Saturday evening to delay the implementation of its “six work days and one rest day” policy — which the Ministry of Labor made without consulting industries — showed that the new government’s decisionmaking process is sloppy and out of touch. Worse than having a policy flip-flop, government officials are like troublemakers who busy themselves fighting fires that they themselves started.

Following a three-hour inter-ministrial meeting on Saturday, Minister of Labor Kuo Fong-yu (郭芳煜) told a news conference that the Cabinet decided that implementation of the new work day rules, initially scheduled to take effect today, would be postponed for two months.

The new rules have sparked an outcry in some industries, such as tourism, media and transportation, which have argued that they need rostering flexibility and the new rules would make that difficult.

The proposal to ban a seven-day workweek was motivated by a commendable desire to ensure adequate rest for workers; however, the crudity and lack of implementation details in the policy was far from laudable.

The ministry’s proposal would have changed policy that has been in place for three decades. While their impact on most sectors would arguably be limited, the changes would have caused immense difficulties for sectors with special requirements. Some flexibility, such as an adjustment period for employers, would have helped mitigate the policy’s negative effects.

However, the ministry did not communicate with employers or unions prior to announcing its policy and ignored objections when they were raised. When transportation, tourism and media industries said that the proposal would create rostering issues, the ministry said they needed to hire more staff.

The ministry did not explain how, in the one month between its policy announcement and scheduled promulgation, employers could have hired enough qualified workers to meet their needs, or if such increased staff numbers were affordable.

The same faults led to controversy over a proposed amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法). The government’s proposed leave policy, a five-day workweek with one fixed day off and one flexible “rest day,” is more flexible than the “two regular days off” per week plan that is supported by opposition parties and labor unions.

However, the leave policy was drafted without consulting the public or affected parties and was so poorly communicated that the Presidential Office could not even convince all Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers to support its version of the bill. How does the government expect the nation’s employers and unions to support its proposal when even its own lawmakers are not onboard?

With the poor quality of its policymaking, it is not surprising that the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has had to reversed course on its “six work days and one rest day” proposal and that most observers say further delays in the amendment of the Labor Standards Act are unavoidable.

On Saturday, the ministry belatedly said that it would hold three conferences on the labor amendment proposal in northern, central and southern Taiwan. Again, it is too little, too late to communicate with the public now.

Listening to the public was what the administration should have done before it started writing policy.

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