Wed, Nov 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers blast Cabinet’s labor plan

TOOTHLESS:Legislators criticized the government for reversing its intentions, saying the policy would only become justification for canceling seven holidays

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Premier William Lai, left, and Minister of Labor Lin Mei-chu answer lawmakers’ questions in the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Legislators across party lines yesterday criticized the Cabinet’s draft amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), saying that the government risks undoing improvements it has made on workers’ rights by reintroducing poor work conditions.

During a question-and-answer session at the legislature in Taipei, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiang Yung-chang (江永昌) asked Premier William Lai (賴清德) to clarify the reason behind the proposed amendments.

The act was amended only 11 months ago, Chiang said, expressing concern that the proposed amendments would harm workers’ rights.

Lai said that the aim of the amendments is to create a “safe and flexible” work environment for employees, but Chiang said that the premier was being too optimistic.

Average work hours in Taiwan fell three places from third to sixth in the world last year from 2014, Chiang said, asking whether the government wants to abolish the stance it adopted for last year’s amendment — to defend workers’ weekly two days off by raising overtime rates.

If the government wants to help businesses cut operating costs, it can grant them tax reductions, rather than changing the act again, he said.

However, Lai dismissed Chiang’s comment, saying that the key objective of the proposed amendment is to allow more flexibility in labor policies, which cannot be achieved through tax cuts.

KMT Legislator Chen Yi-min (陳宜民) asked Lai whether the amendments will cause the “one fixed day off, one flexible rest day” policy to become a mere justification for canceling seven national holidays.

If so, the amendment would contradict President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) campaign promise that the holidays “will not be canceled if it is against workers’ interests,” Chen said.

Saying that netizens have launched a formal online petition to reinstate the holidays, he asked Lai to clarify his stance on the issue, to which the premier responded: “We are still gathering public opinion on this.”

The draft amendments covered by the media this week have drawn criticism that the government is pandering to employers over a rule that, if passed, would allow employers to make employees work 12 days in a row before giving them a two-day break, Chen said.

Meanwhile, KMT Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) on the sidelines of a radio interview said that it is “highly unlikely” that the DPP would reintroduce the seven holidays, which were axed by the party with a “hardline stance” during legislative reviews last year.

Chiang Wan-an, who heads a KMT caucus task force responsible for formulating policies on labor policy amendments, said the caucus supports draft amendments that calculate overtime fees by the actual amount of time employees work, rather than in blocks of four hours.

The caucus also supports proposals by the Ministry of Labor that would allow workers to pass on their annual leave to the next year if it is not used by the end of a year, and to convert remaining compensatory days off into salary payments, he said.

However, it will firmly oppose the draft amendments that would allow employees to work 12 days in a row and reduce the minimum time between shifts from at least 11 to eight hours, Chiang Wan-an said.

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