Migrant workers should be allowed to change employers, a coalition of migrant rights groups and migrant worker organizations said yesterday as they rallied outside the Ministry of Labor in Taipei, urging the public to join them in a march next month.
Migrant workers can only start a new job if they are not at fault for losing their previous one, such as when their factory closes down, fishing boat sinks, or when their employer dies or loses the right to employ them after contravening the law, said Ella Weng (翁倩文), a representative of the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan, a coalition of seven migrant rights groups that co-organizes the labor rights march on Jan. 16.
Outside of those reasons, a migrant worker can only change jobs if their employer agrees, Weng added.
“As Taiwanese, we all know what freedom is, but if migrant workers need their employers to agree to them changing jobs, is that really freedom?” Weng said. “If Taiwanese needed the signature of their employers to resign from their jobs, could you accept that?”
Weng asked Taiwanese to put themselves in the shoes of migrant workers and understand the struggles they are facing.
At the rally, a 36-year-old Indonesian caretaker who gave her name as Ani said that she last month left her job at a long-term care facility after her employer refused to pay her for overtime work.
She had no access to the records of her hours, she said, adding that she now lives in a shelter for stranded migrant workers.
Her employer made her work excessive hours and refused to agree to her request to change jobs, Ani said, adding that her employer told her it was illegal for her to reach out for help.
“I really want to ask everyone, do Taiwanese also need to have their employer’s permission to change jobs?” Ani said.
A 41-year-old care worker from the Philippines who gave her name as Janice said she is also staying at a shelter because her employer had mistreated her.
“They treated me like an animal, not like a human. I suffered a lot,” Janice said.
Her employer forced her to wear a mask at all times, except for when she was sleeping or taking a shower, Janice said.
She left her employer in New Taipei City about three months ago and has not had any income since then, Janice said, adding that she has three children to support in the Philippines.
Fajar, who is president of Indonesian workers solidarity group Ganas Community, said that Taiwan’s laws should conform to international standards and not fall behind the times.
“We invite everyone who cares about the rights of migrant workers to join us on our march on January 16, in hopes that Taiwanese society will understand and that the government will abolish the law restricting the freedom to transfer jobs, which is the root of [our] oppression,” Fajar said.
Participants in the Jan. 16 event are to gather at Taipei Railway Station’s west entrance at noon before marching to the headquarters of the governing Democratic Progressive Party at 1pm and afterwards to the labor ministry, the network said in a statement.
Ministry data showed that there were 675,672 migrant workers in Taiwan at the end of last month.
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