Mon, Dec 17, 2018 - Page 2 News List

Agencies still charge steep fees, migrant workers say

‘FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT’:The labor ministry and the president claim that workers no longer pay ‘service fees,’ but agencies charge up to NT$80,000, a labor group said

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan International Workers’ Association members and migrant workers protest outside the Ministry of Labor in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

About 100 migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday protested outside the Ministry of Labor, demanding that it eliminate illegal service charges collected by employment agencies.

Migrants seeking jobs in Taiwan are typically charged a service fee of NT$80,000 to NT$150,000 by labor agencies, even though such fees are banned if a worker has completed their previous contract or is renewing their contract, Taiwan International Workers’ Association director of policy research Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮) said at the protest.

The practice is so pervasive that “if they do not pay the fee, they will not get a job,” she said.

While a provision in the Employment Service Act (就業服務法) requiring foreign blue-collar workers to leave the nation every three years was abolished in October 2016 to prevent foreign employees from being repeatedly charged service fees, many are now charged even more by agencies that know exactly how to avoid getting caught, she said.

An Indonesian migrant worker, who identified himself as Andy, said that he was illegally charged NT$75,000 by an employment agency for a job that he later found out was illegal.

“When I realized I had paid NT$75,000 for an illegal job, I thought that was terrible of them and wanted my money back, but when the matter was brought to the local Department of Labor, the agency lied and said they never charged a fee,” he said.

Because the agency had negotiated and received the fee through an Indonesian go-between, Andy was unable to prove that the transaction ever took place, he said.

“I am afraid that the agency or my employer will find me saying this, but this must be told,” he said. “The agency involved is not a small one, but a very big one. A lot of people must have been charged a service fee like I was, but dare not say anything for fear of losing their job.”

“If we choose to be silent, agencies would care even less about breaking the law and that would only make job hunting more difficult for us,” he said, adding that service fees have increased significantly, from about NT$35,000 to NT$80,000.

“President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the ministry have touted the abolishment of the Employment Service Act provision as evidence that Taiwan offers a friendly work environment for migrant workers, but after enjoying all the political benefits that came with the amendments, neither has done anything about the problem with service fees,” the association said in a statement.

According to the ministry, since the amendment, more than 127,000 migrant workers had been able to remain in the nation after working for three years, thus saving billions in agency fees, the association said.

However, the association’s research found workers continue to pay an average service fee of between NT$20,000 and NT$40,000 just to renew a contract and an average fee of NT$40,000 to NT$80,000 for a new job after completing their previous contract, it said.

To eliminate illegal service charges, the government should crack down on the illegal practice and severely punish violators, it said, adding that in the long term private personnel agencies for migrant workers should be abolished.

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