Fri, Nov 03, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers pan proposed labor law amendments

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Labor Lin Mei-chu (林美珠) did not attend a legislative question-and-answer session yesterday where she had been scheduled to deliver a presentation on proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), drawing criticism from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers already critical of the proposed changes announced on Tuesday.

At the meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, KMT Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) mocked Lin, saying she had apparently been spirited away amid fears she might come under fire over the draft amendments.

Lee urged the Cabinet not to try to push the amendments through as it did with the changes passed late last year.

The draft amendments appear to contradict the belief of Deputy Minister of Labor Liao Huei-fang (廖蕙芳), a former Taiwan Labour Front director-general, that work hours should be reduced overall and workers should be granted two days off every week, Lee said.

Liao attended the committee meeting as a stand-in for Lin.

Lee asked Liao if she had abandoned fellow labor rights advocates or whether she had been misunderstood.

The ministry has since late last year been promoting regulations in connection with the “one fixed day off, one flexible rest day” workweek and carrying out labor inspections, Liao replied.

The proposed amendments were drafted in employers’ favor, and it would be difficult for the 94 percent of independent workers nationwide to defend their rights, as unlike union members who have signed a collective agreement with their employer, they are in a relatively disadvantageous position when bargaining for their rights, Lee said.

Citing a bus crash that killed 33 people in February that was purportedly caused by an overworked Iris Travel Service Co tour bus driver, Lee said that further amendments should only be made to reduce working hours to prevent overwork.

Given the ministry’s proposal to allow employers to work 12 days in a row and to raise the cap on the total number of hours an employee is allowed to work per month from 46 to 54, KMT Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) asked Liao how those changes would make the law “safer” or protect workers’ rights.

Companies with more than 30 employees that want to adopt the two schemes would have to reach an agreement during negotiations with its employees as well as register with local labor authorities, Liao said, adding that such firms are in the minority.

Liao was “talking nonsense,” because negotiations between employers and employees without the presence of a union are usually just a formality, Chiang said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) was also critical, calling the ministry’s proposals to allow employers to move around workers’ days off to give them just two days off after 12 days of work “ludicrous.”

New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said the government was “overdoing it” by proposing the amendments, which will tilt the law disproportionately in favor of employers.

The proposed amendments were “just like setting out to alter a dress into a skirt, but ending up turning it into a bikini,” she said.

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