Tue, Jan 09, 2018 - Page 3 News List

NPP leaves cross-caucus negotiations

LABORIOUS DISCUSSIONS:The withdrawal means that the Cabinet’s proposed amendments will have to be voted on during the plenary session with few changes

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Legislators yesterday wait inside the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan to make speeches during the third reading of a draft bill on amendments to the Labor Standards Act.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The New Power Party (NPP) yesterday unexpectedly withdrew from what had been a fairly smooth cross-caucus negotiation effort on the Cabinet’s proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

Following more than 50 hours of hunger strike by NPP lawmakers in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei against the Cabinet’s proposals, the NPP submitted draft amendments that were more or less in line with the Cabinet’s.

The NPP agreed to raise the maximum number of consecutive working days from six to 12 and conditionally lower the minimum rest time between shifts from 11 hours to eight, but added a mechanism that would allow individual employees to refuse to work overtime.

According to the NPP’s new proposals, businesses seeking to raise the maximum number of consecutive working days and lower the rest time between shifts would have to seek approval from its supervising agencies, the Ministry of Labor and the Legislative Yuan as well the respective unions.

Individual workers would still be able refuse their employers’ request even if the employer has the approval of the necessary agencies and unions.

The NPP’s proposals were understood to be a middle ground on Cabinet’s proposals to ease overtime rules, and the negotiations went on clause-by-clause for four hours.

However, as the negotiations were about to resume after a break, NPP Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) announced that the party was withdrawing from the negotiations.

The Executive Yuan had resisted the NPP’s proposals, and the negotiation process was just a “formality” to smooth the way for the wholesale passage of the Cabinet’s amendments, he said.

Huang’s announcement shocked the other lawmakers and Cabinet officials.

Agreements made during cross-caucus negotiations have to be signed by all parties to be effective, and the NPP’s withdrawal meant that no agreement is now possible.

That means the Cabinet amendments might have to be put to votes during the plenary legislative session and approved with few changes.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said the NPP’s action might have been caused by labor rights groups’ opposition to its own amendments after they had worked closely with the NPP to protest against the government’s labor legislation.

The timing of the withdrawal coincided with an early evening protest staged by labor advocates in Taipei Main Station aimed at disrupting train operations, and DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) accused Huang of telling his assistant to organize the protest.

After attempts to convince the NPP to return to the negotiating table failed, the DPP, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) continued the negotiations, focusing on overtime calculations and annual leave mechanism.

KMT lawmakers proposed dozens of draft amendments, including one from Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) seeking to codify a requirement that employers pay employees for unused annual leave in accordance with overtime rates.

In addition, the KMT caucus also proposed increasing the overtime rate to 200 percent of a worker’s hourly wage if they were asked to work on “rest days.”

DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) proposed entitling employees working on “rest days” to four hours of overtime pay for working between one to four hours, but calculating overtime pay by the actual hours worked past four hours.

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