Thu, Feb 01, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Workers’ groups to push referendum on labor law

UNCOORDINATED:Four seperate groups have announced referendums on the labor law and the first petition was submitted to the Central Election Commission yesterday

By Ann Maxon and Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporters

Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety chairman Chu Ning-wei, center, holds a news conference in Taipei, saying the alliance has reached the first-stage threshold for a referendum on the amended labor laws.

Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times

A coalition of labor groups yesterday said they would promote a referendum to repeal the latest amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and a referendum to legislate a public holiday act that would ensure employees have 19 public holidays a year.

The Taoyuan Confederation of Trade Unions, the Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries, the Labor Rights Association and other groups yesterday held up placards that read “we want our seven public holidays back” and “no more deaths from overwork” at a protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Many of the protesters also participated in a three-day demonstration against the amendments outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei from Jan. 8 to Jan. 10.

“Many labor groups protested against the amendments when they were being reviewed at the legislature, but the Democratic Progressive Party completely ignored their voices,” Taiwan International Workers’ Association director of policy research Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮) said. “The only way left is to express our opinion through a referendum on the amendments.”

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) promised to give workers their seven public holidays back before she was elected, she said.

“We hope a new public holiday act would ensure that workers have 19 public holidays every year,” she said.

“We said on Jan. 10 that we would not stop fighting against this oppressive law. Labor standards must not be lowered,” Labor Rights Association executive director Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍) said.

Wang also criticized Tsai for breaking campaign pledges to workers.

“Tsai Ing-wen has betrayed workers. In less than two years she has already slapped workers in the face twice by first cutting seven public holidays and then changing the labor law for the worse,” she said.

The New Power Party (NPP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Jan. 12 separately announced that they would promote a referendum to change the amended labor law.

While the NPP proposed sending the amendments to the legislature for a second review, the SDP, like the labor groups, proposed repealing the amendments.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety yesterday submitted a 2,597-signature petition to the Central Election Commission to hold a referendum on the amended labor law.

Many medical practitioners’ unions and labor rights groups have spoken out against an amendment to Article 34 of the act which allows minimum rest time between shifts to be cut from 11 hours to eight hours in exceptional circumstances over concerns that hospitals would misuse the clause to “turn the exceptional into the norm.”

The amended act was promulgated by the president yesterday and it is due to take effect on March 1.

The alliance initiated its online petition against the article when the amendments were passed.

Alliance chairman Chu Ning-wei (儲寧瑋) said it achieved the minimum requirement of 1,900 signatures to pass the first threshold within two weeks and it would begin the next stage of process once the commission approves the proposal.

A study has shown that frequently rotating shifts and having shorter breaks between shifts have negative health effects, he said, but once the amended act takes effect workers could be forced to have only eight hours of rest, or less as time spent commuting is excluded, which is likely to result in increased risk of medical practitioners making errors.

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