‘Firms trying to skirt amendments’

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jan 13, 2017 - Page 3

Some companies employing foreign workers are trying to force the employees to return to their home nations and pay agency fees before renewing their contracts in an attempt to circumvent the amendments to the Employment Service Act (就業服務法), labor rights campaigners said on Wednesday, calling for the Ministry of Labor to take action.

The amendments that were adopted last year give foreign employees the right to be directly rehired or apply to change their place of employment at the end of a three-year contract, removing a requirement that they first return to their home nations before they can be rehired.

“If a company as large as Siliconware Precision Industries Co, which is one of the nation’s leading integrated circuit packaging and testing service providers, can get away with this kind of manipulation, the amendments will have failed,” Service the People Association in Taoyuan director Lennon Wong (汪英達) said, adding that Siliconware’s foreign employees whose contracts were to expire were given questionnaires asking if they would prefer to resign and return to their home nations before being rehired.

The employees were told that they would only be rehired if they indicated that they are willing to resign and return to their home nation first, he said.

“My production line manager wants me to stay, but he said that the company wants me to go back to the Philippines before I can be rehired. We do not want to do this, because if we leave we have to pay agency fees again,” campaigners quoted a Filipina worker as saying without disclosing her name.

She said she had already paid 75,000 pesos (US$1,510) to be matched with her employer, which is more than two months’ salary.

She was one of three workers whose petitions were presented to the ministry, which said that several dozen workers had been affected.

“The company’s actions are extremely strange. Holding on to skilled workers should be beneficial to Siliconware by helping decrease turnover rate and increase productivity,” Wong said, accusing the company of colluding with an employment agency to force the workers to continue paying agency fees.

“From what we can see, this appears to be an individual case and it is complicated by the transition period for the application of new rules,” Workforce Development Agency section chief Hsueh Chien-chung (薛鑑忠) said.

While campaigners accused the firm of notifying the employees only several weeks before their contracts were terminated, new rules guaranteeing two months’ notification are not due to come into effect until Tuesday next week, he said, adding that the ministry would investigate other allegations made by the campaigners.

Siliconware released a statement saying that it had extended the contracts of about half of its foreign workers that were set to expire within the next three months.

The extensions were made based on the employees’ work records and the company’s needs, it said.