Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Groups slam dispatch worker plan

COUNTERPRODUCTIVE:The Cabinet said that it aims to ensure more workers are protected by the law, which does not cover independent contractors it wants to hire

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

A coalition of labor rights groups yesterday criticized Premier William Lai’s (賴清德) plan to replace a portion of the government’s low-level dispatch workers with independent contractors and called on the government to instead hire the workers as full-time staff.

The Executive Yuan on July 18 announced that the central government would reduce its number of dispatch workers from 7,238 to zero within two years to set a better example for private businesses and ensure that more workers are protected under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

However, it was later revealed that, while most of the workers would be replaced by full-time government employees, a small portion of those responsible for cleaning, sorting files, delivering documents and other low-level duties that are not directly related to the government’s “core tasks” would be replaced with independent contractors.

Dispatch workers are employed by staffing agencies, which send them to fill temporary positions at companies or organizations, said Chang Hsin-lung (張鑫隆), president of Labor Vision and an associate professor at National Dong Hwa University.

Dispatch workers are protected by the act and can accumulate tenure and receive severance if they are fired, but independent contractors are not protected by the act and cannot obtain job tenure or receive severance, he said.

There are 41,754 independent contractors working for the central government, far more than the number of dispatch workers, Taipei City Confederation of Trade Unions chairwoman Cheng Ya-hui (鄭雅慧) said.

“They are typically paid less than dispatch workers and, on top of that, they need to cover their own medical insurance and have no paid time off,” Cheng said.

Dispatch workers are treated as disposable, regardless of how long they have worked, Taiwan Dispatch Workers’ Union representative Wu Chao-ju (吳昭儒) said.

“The Cabinet should explain its reasoning behind separating those performing so-called ‘core tasks’ from those who are not. Even janitors and garbage collectors are important, as their jobs need to be done every day,” Wu said.

It is not a question of the number of dispatch workers, but whether the government is directly offering full-time positions to its staff, said Chiu Yu-fan (邱羽凡), a Labor Vision board member and assistant professor at National Chiao Tung University.

“Hiring dispatch workers and independent contractors will not improve the rights of workers,” Chiu said.

Labor Vision and union members urged the government to publish the total number of atypical workers at government agencies and to offer them formal full-time positions.

They also urged it to amend the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法) to ban companies that have breached labor laws from bidding for government projects.

“If government agencies are hiring atypical workers, how can it expect private businesses to do differently? It must take this issue seriously, rather than simply make up plans that sound nice,” Cheng said.

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