The government understands the demands of migrant workers to abolish the broker system, but the free market also plays a role, as employers have a say over how they hire, the Ministry of Labor said on Sunday.
The ministry issued the statement after a group of migrant workers from Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines earlier in the day protested in Taipei, demanding the abolishment of placement agencies and the enforcement of a compulsory government-to-government hiring system.
The Taiwan International Workers’ Association’s Meriam Hsu said that even though direct-hiring programs exist between Taiwan and labor-exporting countries in Southeast Asia, job vacancies are often controlled by placement agencies and brokers.
As a result, migrant workers in Taiwan who want to extend a contract or need to change employers are charged transfer or “job buying” fees of NT$35,000 to NT$80,000, which is against the law, Hsu said.
Vietnamese worker Thieu Van Loi said that his compatriots are charged as much as US$7,000 before they can work in Taiwan, even though the law does not allow a fee of more than US$4,000 for services and placing them with an employer.
They also face broker fees of NT$1,500 to NT$1,800 per month after arriving in Taiwan in exchange for service that is far from satisfying, he said.
The protesters urged the government to find out why the problems still exist, despite the passage of an amendment to Article 52 of the Employment Service Act (就業服務法) in 2016 that eliminated a requirement that foreign workers leave Taiwan for at least one day upon expiration of an employment permit to start a new contract.
Workforce Development Agency section chief Hsueh Chien-chung (薛鑑忠) said that most employers prefer to hire migrant workers through brokers or placement agencies because of the convenience.
Employers prefer to work through brokers and have them handle the paperwork, screen the workers and handle any problems, Hsueh said.
In direct-hire programs, governments only provide pools of potential employees, but it is up to companies to select workers via video interviews or by traveling abroad, he said.
Issues related to transfer fees are not likely to be discussed in the near future, Hsueh said, adding that brokers who demand placement fees from migrant workers face fines of 10 to 20 times the amount they collect and their agency would face closure if they are found guilty.
A press release issued by the ministry in August 2017 said that placement agencies and brokers are not allowed to collect placement fees from migrant workers.
They are only allowed to charge service fees ranging from NT$1,500 to NT$1,800 per month, it said.
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