Migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday criticized a Ministry of Labor plan to exempt migrant fishers from standard work hour limits, saying that it would aggravate their exploitation.
About 100 migrant workers and members of the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan rallied outside the ministry in Taipei, shouting: “No to 84-1.”
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) last month said that the government would apply Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) to migrant fishers to allow greater work flexibility.
Under the article, jobs recognized by the ministry as having a “special nature” are exempt from the work hour limit of 12 hours per day, five days per week, and the overtime limit of 46 hours per month.
If applied, the work schedules of migrant fishers would be arranged based on specific agreements with their employers and must be reported to local governments.
“Migrant fishers typically work long hours, receive low wages and are charged illegal, expensive service fees by brokers,” the network said in a statement.
They are not paid for overtime and have to stay on fishing boats even when they are not working, as it is often the only dormitory offered to them, it said.
“Yet instead of cracking down on the illegal treatment of migrant fishers,” the government is seeking to “legalize the ‘status quo’” by applying the article to them, it said.
Applying the article to migrant fishers is “very unfair,” Philippine migrant fisher George Isada said.
While his work hours often exceed the legal limits, he has not been paid for overtime and is even charged NT$5,000 monthly for accommodation when the only place he has to sleep is the fishing boat, he said.
While working, he is constantly exhausted and does not have enough to eat, he added.
“The plan was proposed because there is little flexibility in work hours in the fishing industry,” Workforce Development Agency official Chuang Kuo-liang (莊國良) told reporters.
“Article 84-1 applies to Taiwanese and foreign workers,” he said, adding that there are 12,557 migrant fishers working in the nation’s coastal waters.
Under law, employers that make their employees work overtime without overtime pay would be fined NT$60,000 to NT$300,000, he added.
As the plan has not been finalized, the ministry would consider any suggestions and advice from the public, Chuang said.
In a statement issued after the protest, the ministry said that the plan to apply the article to migrant fishers “does not annul any work hour limits,” but “simply increases flexibility for fishing work.”
When employees work longer than the standard work hour limits, employers still have to pay them for overtime and take their health into consideration, it added.
Additional reporting by CNA
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