More than a dozen representatives of nursing unions yesterday held a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Taipei to protest an amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) that reduces the minimum rest time between shifts to eight hours in exceptional circumstances.
Article 34 of the amended act stipulates that the minimum rest time between shifts can be reduced to eight hours, but must be agreed through labor-management negotiations, approved by the central competent authority and passed by the Ministry or Labor.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare, as the authority, earlier this month released a statement saying that the minimum rest time could only be reduced to eight hours when major disasters, emergencies or serious epidemics occur, and must be negotiated through a labor-management meeting.
The ministry yesterday morning held a meeting with medical associations to discuss the provisions of the article.
Before the meeting began, demonstrators outside chanted “the minimum rest time between shifts should be at least 11 hours to avoid death from overwork” while holding a white banner that read “the ministry should not be an accomplice of ‘blood-and-sweat working conditions.’”
Articles 32 and 40 of the act could already have been used to deal with special conditions, so amending Article 34 could allow hospitals to make “exceptional” conditions the routine, Chiayi Christian Hospital Labor Union deputy chairman Wu Wen-an (巫文安) said.
Not allowing healthcare practitioners get enough rest does not help in emergencies, because they might make more mistakes due to fatigue, he said, adding that it would also lead to personnel shortages in other shifts, so recruiting enough workers would be the solution.
The 11 hours of rest principle remains — the only exceptional situations are natural disasters, outbreaks of serious diseases and emergency rescue, Department of Nursing and Healthcare Director-General Tsai Shu-feng (蔡淑鳳) said.
The meeting was held to clarify the principle and the three exceptions to the associations, Tsai added.
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