Fri, Jul 06, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Civil servants have right to unionize, SDP says

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Wednesday called on the government to follow the examples of France and the UK and allow civil servants to form unions, bargain collectively and hold strikes.

There has been a string of reports on overworked civil servants, such as Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control section chief Chou Li-chung (周禮中) collapsing at work last month and Ambassador to Eswatini Thomas Chen (陳經銓) on June 22 suffering a stroke partly due to work-related stress, party convener and Taipei mayoral candidate Fan Yun (范雲) told a news conference in Taipei.

“If the government does not care about the health of its employees, how can it protect [them] from being overworked?” she asked.

According to International Labour Organization conventions, workers should have the right to unionize, engage in collective bargaining and hold strikes, which are essential for workers to fight for better work conditions, said Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Jerry Liu (劉仕傑), who is running for the Taipei City Council with the SDP.

“As a diplomat and civil servant, I love my country and do my best to serve it, but patriotism should never be used to justify the exploitation of civil servants,” he said.

While civil servants were allowed to found the National Civil Servant Association under the Civil Servant Association Act (公務人員協會法), it is not a union and does not have the right to bargain collectively or hold strikes, he said.

“Under the act, the association can offer advice on government exams, personnel appointments, performance assessments and promotions,” he said. “It also has some bargaining power, but that is limited to affairs relating to work environment improvements, work schedules and duty adjustments.”

“Only by forming unions can civil servants really bargain for better work conditions without having to worry about being punished by their employers,” he added.

Civil servants in France have been allowed to unionize since 1946 and have the right to hold strikes, Liu said.

In the UK, all public employees are protected by the labor law and only police officers are not allowed to strike, he said, adding that their right to bargain collectively is also protected.

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