Mon, Dec 04, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Group protests Cabinet’s labor amendment

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Demonstrators protesting the government’s draft amendment to the Labor Standards Act perform a mock Buddhist ceremony outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

About 100 protesters yesterday rallied in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei, performing a comic skit satirizing the Cabinet’s latest draft amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

Protesters, mostly students, condemned the draft amendment for relaxing overtime rules, which would allow some industries to raise the maximum number of consecutive working days from six to 12 and lower rest time between shifts from 11 hours to eight hours.

A number of protesters had their heads shaved in the manner of Buddhist monks before reading the act clause by clause as if reciting a religious chant, while others wearing monk’s robes presided over a mock Buddhist ceremony.

The protest was inspired by Premier William Lai’s (賴清德) Buddhism-related comments last month, when he asked caregivers to look past their low salaries and treat their jobs as a way to earn “good karma” or “spiritual merit.”

A National Taiwan University student surnamed Chao (趙), who helped organize the protest, said it was part of a series of creative protests against the amendment, including improvised performances on Taipei MRT trains and protest stickers stuck on bus stops and street signs.

“Creativity is a non-violent means to encourage more people to join the cause,” Chao said. “We hope to stop the legislation by spreading the protest across the nation with creativity.”

Dissatisfaction with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government surged following the amendment proposal, but previous protests failed to achieve results, and the protest yesterday was planned to raise public awareness and make the party understand the electoral consequences of the legislation, Chao said.

Protesters criticized what they called the Cabinet and DPP’s attempt to bulldoze the draft amendment through the Legislative Yuan in legislative committee reviews, and called on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to stop the legislation as the DPP plans to have it pass the preliminary committee review this week.

Taipei Doctors Union secretary Chang Min-chiao (張閔喬) said the union firmly opposes the amendment, as overwork has negative physical and psychological health consequences.

The planned reduction of rest time between shifts could cause fatigue and inattentiveness similar to the effects of inebriation, thereby increasing occupational hazard risks, which is a condition that all medical workers have experienced, Chang said.

While the draft amendment requires businesses to obtain the consent of unions or employees when asking employees to work overtime, only 7 percent of the nation’s workers are represented by a union, suggesting that workers have little leverage when negotiating with their employers, Chang said.

The DPP, while claiming that it has proceeded with the legislation procedurally, is repeating the KMT’s mistake by seeking to rush through controversial bills, she added.

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