Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Opinion: Keeping the Silent Majority Down in Taiwan

The "Cozy Bubble" that should burst
for the marginalized
silent majority of Taiwan.
In Taiwan, there is Hakka, Aboriginal, Christian, Buddhist, and Mandarin TV. Let's have a native Ming-Nan TV channel promoting Taiwanese culture. Let's support the oppressed 'silent majority' in Taiwan.  Prejudices in Taiwan do not tend to be personal, not systematic as some may believe, especially if one is a Filipino, Vietnamese, or Malaysian contract laborer; there is no migrant worker/foreign bride TV station, though there is a radio station in those language. Most importantly, there is a glass ceiling against Taiwanese of Chinese descent.
      Taiwan's President Tsai would not act differently than President Chen. Promoting the silent majority would mostly be used to distance Taiwan from China, not to empower Taiwanese working people as Chen did initially. It would play in the hands of forces eager to kowtow to U.S. Asian hegemony. Look how little she and her DPP fought recently to change labor laws.
Hegemony is for commercial domination. A soft workforce unprotected in Taiwan helps corporations control workers wages and increases their profits
U.S. policy trumps localized interests and Taiwan is still the main conduit to Asian sweatshops, as well as human trafficking. That's why China wants Taiwan in their arena and out of American hands; they believe they wouldn’t be exploitative to people of their own cultural heritage
A dominant majority throw-back, instead of being a jealous reaction to minority rights, would be beneficial for workers speaking out after minorities speak out. In Taiwan, the majority work force have not liberated themselves yet but with a seventeen year wage slump and low-employment opportunities, it is justified in Taiwan, but President. Tsai, having met with the U.S. before election to hash things out, with pro-American agenda against promoting Chinese unification, will remain as oppressive to workers as KMT President Ma Ying-Jeou’s benign neglect was. In the meantime, Chinese working conditions in factories are eclipsing Taiwanese working conditions.
To say President Tsai's agenda can't be called "pro-American" since it doesn't help US workers is a fallacy. U.S. international policy never did help U.S. workers. It helps the U.S. ruling class control profit. One would have to be a union man to understand
To smug ex-pats into keeping the laissez—faire lid on business in Taiwan, being part of the solution is being part of the problem; their interests depend on denying it exists. To choose to troll pro-worker comments, such as mine, on local Facebook pages, instead of offering to join forces with union defenders in Taiwan by promoting union membership is self-serving.
 Americans here could help organizers of low wage-earners instead of justifying neo-liberalism here and denying U.S. hegemony and complicity in promoting global sweatshops. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Expanding tourism jobs for immigrants

Expanding tourism jobs for immigrants

Staff writer, with CNA
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration is taking steps to expand job opportunities for Southeast Asian immigrants in the tourism industry, particularly for tour guides, in keeping with the government’s “new southbound policy.”
During a joint briefing yesterday, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) and the Tourist Guide Association advised Southeast Asian immigrants on the procedure for obtaining tour guide licenses.
The briefing was held in line with the government’s new southbound policy, which is aimed at increasing the diversity of Taiwan’s trade partners so that the nation is not overreliant on the Chinese market, the agency said.
Saying that the number of Southeast Asian travelers and immigrants in Taiwan is rising, the NIA added that the government hopes to help spur an increase in job opportunities for Southeast Asian-language tour guides and boost tourism from that area.
Vietnamese Fan Shih Pei Liu said she was pleased to see the government offering greater assistance to immigrants like her. Fan, who obtained a tour guide license in 2014, said that back then, it was difficult to obtain information on the process for an immigrant to become a tour guide in Taiwan.
She said her plan is to build her professional knowledge and skills so that she can take Vietnamese visitors on tours around the nation.
Linda Tjindiawati, an Indonesian with a master’s degree from a British university, said that after she married a Taiwanese, she was not sure what work she would find in Taiwan.
A tour guide job has the added benefit of allowing the guide to learn more about different places in Taiwan, said Tjindiawati, whose daughter also attended the briefing to gain information about Indonesian-language employment opportunities in the nation.
The number of travelers from Southeast Asian to Taiwan has more than doubled over the past 10 years, rising from 638,939 in 2005 to more than 1.4 million last year, according to Tourism Bureau statistics.
Malaysians accounted for the largest number of visitors from the region last year, followed by Singaporeans and Indonesians.
As of the end of last month, there were about 144,000 foreign spouses from Southeast Asia living in Taiwan, with Vietnamese making up the largest number, according to NIA statistics.

Cutting wages for sitting down is illegal: activists

Cutting wages for sitting down is illegal: activists

HARMFUL:Store clerks are at risk of developing occupational diseases, such as jogger’s heel, because they stand for hours every day, a union member said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter
Many department stores breach work safety rules by fining store clerks for sitting down, workers’ rights activists said yesterday, adding that outsourcing management at the stores complicates the appeal process.
“What we really need is an across-the-board system for us to be able to sit down while at work,” a union member, identified only as “Miss A,” said at a news conference held by Youth Labor Union 95. “Floor managers are free to make up their own administrative rules, and there are all sorts of things they can pick on if they want to give you a hard time.”
She said store clerks often face pay cuts ranging between NT$200 and NT$500 out of their daily salaries of less than NT$1,000 if they are caught sitting down, with standing for long hours every day leading to a range of occupational diseases such as plantar fasciitis, or jogger’s heel, and varicose veins.
Taiwan Labor and Social Policy Research Association executive director Chang Feng-yi (張烽益) said the fines violate the Occupational Safety and Health Act (職業安全衛生法).
“Facility rules [of the act] are very clear that employers are required to provide chairs for employees who stand for long stretches to allow them to rest,” he said, adding that department stores were included within the scope of the rule as “managers” of the facilities in which clerks work.
The persistence of fines and lack of chairs could be attributed to lax government oversight, he said.
Youth Labor Union 95 president Catta Chou (周于萱) said that while floor managers technically fine individual booths and counters, employers invariably deduct the fines from employees’ salaries.
“The result is that if you want to fight for your rights, you can only target your employer, even though the real conflict is between yourself and the department store,” she said, adding that employers “tacitly approve” of department store management by choosing not to defend their employees against the fines.
“Salary deductions are also illegal, but employees have to be willing to fight over them for the issue to be addressed,” she said, adding that many employees are unwilling get into conflict with their employees.
She said her union only has 20 members, attributing the low number to clerks’ long hours and limited holidays, leaving little time to participate in union events.
“Miss A” said that floor managers impose fines for sitting as part of efforts to maintain store image, adding booth operators might not contest the fines out of fear of losing their rented space.
She added that clerks who confronted their employers over wage cuts were able to win their money back as long as they had a basic understanding of the law.

Youth jobless rate 12.36%

Youth jobless rate 12.36%

INTERVIEW TROUBLES:Young people reported being asked to go out by their interviewer or being told lewd jokes, an online survey by yes123 job bank revealed

By Lin Yen-tung and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer
The unemployment rate among the nation’s young people is 12.36 percent, while 19.2 percent of respondents to a yes123 poll reported experiencing sexual harassment at job interviews.
The online job bank said the survey was conducted to advise job hunters on resume writing and interview techniques.
Among respondents who reported sexual harassment, 31.9 percent were asked about their sexual orientation, 28.8 percent reported being told “lewd jokes,” 20.8 percent were asked to go drinking or dining with the interviewer, 18.1 percent were asked to go on an outing with the interviewer and 15.3 percent reported unwanted contact, the survey said.
In addition, 76.5 percent of young job hunters report being asked uncomfortable questions by interviewers about their private life, ranging from their relationship status, plans for marriage or having children, mental and physical health, zodiac sign or blood type, the survey said.
Yes123 spokesman Yang Tsung-pin (楊宗斌) said that inappropriate questions or advances could constitute “workplace discrimination,” and that “unequal power relationships at the workplace” are partly to blame.
Yang said jobseekers should politely refuse to answer improper questions, or ask the interviewer the professional purpose of the line of questioning and give answers that address the professional concern instead of the questions themselves.
When respondents were asked to choose the most frustrating part of the job-hunting process, 70 percent said that writing a self-introduction in their resume was the most problematic, 64.7 percent cited their lack of professional skills and certificates, while 60.3 percent said it was their lack of previous work experience or membership in a club.
Of business agents polled in the survey, 48.1 percent said that they consider applicants who submitted an additional English-language resume to have an advantage over those who did not, while 92 percent said they prioritized jobseekers who provided a photograph of themselves in their resume, the survey said.
Chang Hsiao-wen (鄭曉雯), director of human resources for the hotel industry at yes123, said the greatest challenge for job hunters was that a resume has a 30-second window to pique interest.
A complete resume should include academic credentials; a brief family history that includes the applicant’s ranking by age among siblings; ambitions and expectations in working for the industry; plans for career advancement in the near and intermediate future and a showcase of the applicant’s unique skills and positive traits, Chang said.
In addition to a professional-looking photograph, the job seeker should demonstrate an ability to accommodate the employer’s needs and a willingness to learn, while a clear and specific curriculum vitae is also highly important to success, Chang added.
The online survey was conducted from July 7 to Wednesday last week with online questionnaires directed at young job hunters who graduated or completed military conscription this year.
It had 1,500 valid samples and a margin of error of 3.32 percentage points.

Taipower union protest changes to Electricity Act

Taipower union protest changes to Electricity Act

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Hundreds of members of the Taiwan Power Labor Union yesterday stage a protest against the government’s draft amendment to the Electricity Act outside a public meeting held in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

Proposed amendments to the Electricity Act (電業法) yesterday drew heated protests from the Taiwan Power Labor Union, which accused the Ministry of Economic Affairs of inflating its claims of public support.
Union members staged a protest outside, while the Bureau of Energy hosted a public meeting on the proposed revisions.
The demonstrators shouted that the changes would “dismember” Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) while illegally profiting private firms, and called on Minister of Economic Affairs Lee Chih-kung (李世光) to resign.
They said Lee was a “liar” for claiming that the ministry had reached a consensus with the union over proposed changes at two earlier meetings.
“You are just putting us off and going through the motions because you are under pressure to send a draft version to the Executive Yuan by Friday,” said union president Ting Tso-yi (丁作一), who attended the meeting.
Ting added that the draft legislation was “completely different” from what Lee had discussed with the union.
Several activists got into a shouting match with anti-nuclear activist Yang Huo-mu (楊火木), before withdrawing from the meeting in protest.
“Other than slowing down passage of the law to allow further consideration, our main demand is that employees’ right to work be included in the legislation to make sure they are guaranteed,” because they might be laid off if Taipower spins off some of its business units during privatization, Ting said.
In addition to potentially splitting up the company, the proposed changes would allow electricity producers to sell directly to consumers for the first time.
“We hope to be able to work things out with communication, but if communication does not work, we will use all necessary measures,” Ting said, adding that the union would not rule out options such as refusing to work on typhoon days.
A scheduled union meeting on Thursday next week would determine what measures the union would take, he said.
Last month, the union threatened to hold a strike, but backed down following a meeting with Lee.
Union vice secretary for public relations Hung Ching-fu (洪清福) said the government plans could mean price increases for people living in remote areas, echoing concerns voiced by Taipower officials on Tuesday that ultra-high voltage users would monopolize cheaper forms of energy, leaving the general public with higher electricity prices.
“[Private power operators] will not want to service remote areas, Aboriginal communities living in the mountains or some rural areas, so these areas will likely face higher electricity prices,” Hung said.
Bureau of Energy Secretary-General Lee Chun-li (李君禮) said that the government would not allow drastic energy price hikes for the general public.
A new government bureau would be established to regulate the electricity market, Lee said.
Lee Chih-kung promised to hold further discussions based on the views presented by various groups and ministries, adding that legislation discussed at yesterday’s meeting was a “rough draft.”
Additional reporting by Huang Pei-chun, Lin Chu-han and CNA

Migrant workers are being ‘severely overworked’: Tsai

Migrant workers are being ‘severely overworked’: Tsai

RIGHTS PROTECTION:Foreign caregivers in the nation have long been calling for better wages and shorter working hours, as well as regular days off

Staff writer, with CNA
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday said that foreign migrant workers are overworked and her government is hoping to better protect their rights.
Human rights protection is an important issue, Tsai said in a meeting with US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Susan Coppedge, who is a senior adviser to US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“At present, there are still some foreign workers in Taiwan who are severely overworked, or are forced to work in highly hazardous or physically exhausting jobs,” Tsai was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Presidential Office after the closed-door meeting.
The president said she hopes to better protect the rights of such workers and wants to assure the international community of the nation’s efforts to safeguard human rights, the statement said.
Coppedge touted Taiwan’s efforts to combat human trafficking, noting that the nation is listed as a “tier” 1 country — those that are doing the best job — in the annual Trafficking in Persons report released by the US Department of State last month, the statement said.
Coppedge is in Taipei for an international workshop on combating human trafficking that is being organized by the National Immigration Agency.
As of the end of last month, there were 602,309 foreign migrant workers in Taiwan, with Indonesia accounting for the largest number, followed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand, Ministry of Labor statistics showed.
Migrant workers have long been calling for better wages and working hours, as well as regular days off. Foreign domestic helpers and caregivers are not protected under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

Protesters call for Cabinet to cancel holiday cutbacks

Protesters call for Cabinet to cancel holiday cutbacks

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Demonstrators under tarps on which the Chinese character for “exhausted” are written lie on a street outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The Executive Yuan should withdraw draft amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), labor campaigners said yesterday in a protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, as the summer’s first extraordinary session drew to a close.
The protests followed the Executive Yuan’s submission of draft amendments to the legislature for review.
Sweltering heat did not deter more than 100 protesters from lying on the pavement of a road bordering the Legislative Yuan, forming the Chinese characters for “123 days off.”
They covered themselves with tarps and umbrellas emblazoned with the Chinese character for lei (累, exhausted), with splotches of red paint on the covers symbolizing the “blood and sweat” of workers.
They shouted for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to withdraw proposed amendments and “return” seven national holidays.
“As laborers, we are only able to use our bodies to highlight how unfair this policy is for us,” Workers Struggle Alliance member Mao Chen-fei (毛振飛) said.
The seven national holidays have previously been observed by workers who did not have a five-day workweek, but the Ministry of Labor plans to eliminate them following the passage of new amendments, which raise overtime pay for working on a newly established weekly “flexible rest day.”
All workers already have one weekly “fixed day off,” on which working is almost entirely forbidden, except in special circumstances, such as a disaster or emergency.
“[President] Tsai [Ing-wen (蔡英文)] promised to cut working hours for workers as part of her election platform, but what her administration is doing is cutting seven national holidays while pushing a fake five-day workweek,” Workers Struggle Alliance member Chen Ming-chen (陳姳臻) said, adding that the groups plan to stage protests next month prior to the legislature’s next extraordinary session.
While the new amendments were initially slated to pass this week, consideration was halted last week after the DPP coconvener of the legislative committee in question chose not to open a review session on the proposed amendments, preventing the meeting from being held.
Workers Struggle Alliance member Kuo Kuan-chun (郭冠均) criticized remarks by Tsai on Thursday, in which she promised to guarantee workers’ rights while striking a balance between the interests of workers and businesses.
“She already made similar statements before the election. What we expect is something more substantial: the withdrawal of the proposal to cut national holidays while mandating two ‘fixed days off’ each week to truly realize a five-day workweek,” he said.