Mon, Apr 30, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Groups push migrant voting rights

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Members of labor groups and migrant workers’ unions protest outside the Central Election Commission in Taipei yesterday, calling on the government to allow migrant workers to vote in referendums related to labor issues.

Photo: CNA

A coalition of labor groups and migrant workers’ unions yesterday urged the government to improve the working conditions of migrant workers and allow them to vote on referendums related to labor issues.

About 70 migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday held banners and shouted “live together, decide together” in a demonstration in front of the Central Election Commission office on Xuzhou Road in Taipei.

Amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) have greatly affected migrant workers, because they have the toughest work conditions, said Hsu Wei-dong (許惟棟), a member of the Hope Workers’ Center in Hsinchu.

“Although the amendments affect them far more than others, the Ministry of Labor has not once communicated with them about the new law or translated the regulations into their languages,” he said.

Local labor groups are promoting two referendum proposals aimed at improving labor rights — one on reinstating seven public holidays that were scrapped last year and another on repealing the labor law amendments that took effect last month — and migrant workers should also be allowed to vote on them, he said.

“We are protesting in front of the Central Election Commission because it will not allow them to vote as they are not citizens,” he said.

“Before the amendments, we would work for six consecutive days at most. Now we have to work for 12 days in a row and only get two days off after that,” said Vietnamese Migrant Workers’ Union representative Nguyen Viet Ca, who has worked in Taiwan for five years.

“Has the government really considered the needs of workers? Or are workers just money printers to them?” he asked.

Migrants who work in their employers’ homes are the most discriminated against, and are overworked and underpaid, said Gilda Banugan, chairwoman of Migrante International’s Taiwan chapter, adding that many of them are also victims of physical abuse, such as sexual harassment and rape.

“We are really sad because we are deprived of justice. Most of our brokers and employers do not comply with what is written in the contracts. No days off, not enough food to eat, no privacy in the place we sleep,” she said, adding that a large chunk of their incomes go to brokers, who extract all kinds of fees from them, often illegally.

The government should abolish the broker system and allow migrant workers to vote to support better policies, she said, adding: “Workers should not be divided based on their nationality.”

The two referendum proposals, organized by a coalition of labor groups, have passed the commission’s initial reviews. They must gather 281,745 signatures by July 31. Union members said they have nearly 40,000 signatures.

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