Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Nurses decry overtime violations

‘CANNOT USE’:Medical establishments refuse to pay overtime to nurses who have not used their annual leave, Taiwan Nurses Union president Jane Lu said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Nurses Union president Jane Lu yesterday speaks at a news conference in Taipei about the working conditions of nurses.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

New overtime regulations have not improved working conditions for nurses, whose workloads have risen as violations of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) remain widespread, union representatives said yesterday.

“The result has been that the workforce per shift has fallen, so nurses’ workloads have increased,” Taiwan Nurses Union president Jane Lu (盧孳艷) said, citing informal union surveys.

Poor working conditions have made it difficult for hospitals to hire additional nursing staff, Lu said, while dismissing employer complaints that new regulations have reduced shift flexibility.

“They are crying because their ‘fox tail’ got stepped on,” she said, adding that hospitals have routinely violated overtime regulations, for instance by refusing to pay overtime to nurses who had not taken their annual leave.

“Annual leave is something you can see, but cannot use” because supervisors often prevent nurses from taking time off, even as hospitals mandate the amount of compensation nurses receive for unused time, Lu said.

She cited a 2015 labor inspection of more than 20 Taipei medical establishments that found every single employer to had violated labor regulations, with 89 percent violating overtime rules.

The 100 percent violation rate in Taipei was likely caused by experts and labor officials being invited, helping inspection officials find violations which they would otherwise have missed, she said.

Labor conditions in hospitals have caused controversy, with the need for 24-hour shifts giving rise to widespread use of “flexible working hours” that see off days placed irregularly, reducing transparency and making enforcement difficult.

“Nurses cannot figure out exactly when their ‘mandatory days off,’ ‘flexible rest days’ and ‘annual leave,’ should fall,” she said, adding that the difficulty of tracking days off makes it difficult to report violations, such as when allowing nurses to leave work early is counted toward their “annual leave.”

She called for thorough labor inspections and changing the way that nurse-patient ratios are set so that only active caregivers would be counted.

Lu also urged hospitals to publish their nurse retention rates.

Regulations allow for workers to be denied overtime pay for unused time off, even though that is part of an agreement, said Wang Chin-jung (王金蓉), a senior executive officer at the Ministry of Labor’s Department of Labor Standards and Equality.

However, there has been a substantial increase in the number of labor inspections in the past few years, even as the overall percentage of violations found among medical employers has fallen from 20 percent in 2014 to 10 percent last year, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Planning and Occupation Health Division Section Chief Huang Shin-wu (黃新武) said.

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