Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Unions call for the end of ‘social welfare sweatshops’

ENOUGH:Eden Social Welfare Foundation bus drivers said that they are paid for 10 hours of work when they have done 11, and are demanding what they are owed

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Union representatives and bus drivers from the Eden Social Welfare Foundation stage a protest outside the Taipei City Council yesterday against low pay and long work hours for drivers. Photo: Huang Chien-hao, Taipei Times

Eden Social Welfare Foundation employees yesterday protested outside the Taipei City Council to demand that the Taipei City Government stop outsourcing its social welfare programs to non-profit organizations, including their own, which they said has resulted in their overtime pay being illegally docked.

About 40 members of the foundation’s workers’ union and other labor groups shouted: “Put an end to social welfare sweatshops.”

The city government has for years outsourced to the foundation a bus program for disabled passengers, National Federation of Independent Trade Unions executive secretary Jia Bo-kai (賈伯楷) said.

“According to the government contract, every such bus must run nine trips a day, 308 days a year to receive its full funding,” he said.

Considering there are only 249 workdays every year, drivers must work overtime to meet the total number of trips required in the contract, Jia said.

The union launched the strike on Monday, he added.

“We are on strike because the foundation pays us for 10 hours of work when we have done 11 hours. They must pay us the wages it owes us,” union president Chou Wen-ping (周文柄) said.

“If we go back to work tomorrow, we refuse to work for more than 10 hours,” he said.

“When the foundation was founded by writer Liu Hsia (劉俠), drivers did the same amount of work, but were paid more,” said union adviser Liu Yung (劉庸).

Now they are paid a base salary of NT$17,280 (US$578), and while some can make more by working overtime, others — especially those who joined the union — have been assigned remote routes that prevent them from making nine trips a day and receiving their full salaries, he said.

The foundation has more than NT$2.5 billion and is still raising money, he said, adding: “What it has been doing is little different from what fraud rings do.”

Although the city’s Department of Labor has fined the foundation for illegally docking employees’ pay, it has refused to pay the wages it owes the drivers, Jia said.

“Since the bus program is the government’s social welfare project, it should take responsibility for resolving the labor dispute,” he said.

The government should avoid outsourcing social welfare projects to organizations to save money, which only sacrifices labor rights and the quality of the service, the union said.

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