About 400 migrant workers took to the streets of Taipei yesterday, urging the government to allow them to switch employers freely.
Holding banners stating their appeals in several languages, the demonstrators assembled at Taipei Railway Station before passing the Democratic Progressive Party’s headquarters and eventually arriving in front of the Ministry of Labor, where they performed a skit in which they pushed down bamboo fences to symbolize the regulation restricting them from changing their listed employer.
Under the Employment Services Act (就業服務法), migrant workers are not allowed to change employers, except under special circumstances, such as being employed in a job that was not what they were originally contracted to do.
“I have really suffered a lot, but I have no right to transfer immediately,” said a 42-year-old caregiver from the Philippines at the rally organized by the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT).
Asking to be identified only as Mace, she said that in the 12 years that she has been working in Taiwan, she has experienced a lot of problems, but has never been allowed to switch employers.
Mace said that she is now working as the sole caregiver for a 95-year-old woman, who requires 24-hour attention.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
“As a caregiver, I get no overtime pay,” Mace said, adding that if she had the opportunity, she would switch to a factory job.
Since Taiwan began accepting migrant workers 30 years ago, not much has changed in terms of their freedom to switch jobs, said Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮), a member of the Taiwan International Workers’ Association and a spokesperson for MENT, which is a coalition of seven groups that advocate for migrants’ rights.
“It is a system that traps migrant workers in terrible labor conditions, and unlike Taiwanese workers, they do not have the right to choose who they work for,” Chen said.
Following the protest, the Workforce Development Agency said in a statement that allowing migrant workers to freely change employers might result in increased hiring costs and an unstable labor supply for certain jobs, particularly the care of people with severe disabilities.
In addition to extreme circumstances, migrant workers can change their jobs with the consent of their employer and at the end of their contract, the ministry said.
An amendment to the law would require public consensus, as it involves employment stability, the ministry added.
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