Monday, April 28, 2014

My Opinion: Rights of workers suffer in reshuffle

Rights of workers suffer in reshuffle

By Cheng Chih-yu 成之約
When the Council of Labor Affairs was transformed into the Ministry of Labor Affairs, workers may have failed to notice that two other agencies were also closed down — the Labor Pension Fund Supervisory Committee and the Labor Insurance Supervisory Committee. Because these two agencies were responsible for overseeing the Labor Pension Fund and the Labor Insurance Fund, any supervisory shortcomings on the competent authority’s part will affect the workers’ rights and interests.
According to the plan, the competent authority is to set up a labor fund supervisory committee to review the use and other aspects of the Labor Pension Fund, the Labor Insurance Fund, the Employment Insurance Fund, the Arrear Wage Payment Fund and the Occupational Accident Protection Fund.
Although the membership of the supervisory committee continues to be made up of representatives of labor, employers, government and academia, there are doubts as to how effective it will be to have a single committee oversee to review five different funds.
Based on my own experience as a member of the Labor Pension Fund Supervisory Committee, every meeting requires between two and four hours.
It is clear that in the new system the review and oversight will not be sufficiently detailed or in-depth.
Even more importantly, the labor fund supervisory committee will be a task force set up based on the Regulations for the Departmental Affairs of the Ministry of Labor, which raises the question of whether its independence and powers will measure up to the independence and powers of the past labor pension fund and labor insurance supervisory committees.
Although the labor pension fund supervisory committee was an administrative agency and the labor insurance supervisory committee was a state-owned financial institution, their membership composition and appointment as well as procedural rules were clearly specified in law.
It is clear that such an oversight mechanism reflected at least a certain amount of independence and power.
By comparison, the Ministry of Labor is an administrative agency and unless there are other clear legal regulations, the ministry’s various task forces, regardless of what they are called, will at most be consultative in nature, which makes one question their level of independence.
As it is time for this organizational transition, the government should give thorough consideration as to what kind of oversight should be applied to the labor fund if it really wants to manifest its earnest intentions.
The only way to go about this is for the government to consider whether it needs to establish a supervisory mechanism at the Cabinet level.
The difficulty in establishing an independent agency is due to the Ministry of Labor’s organizational staff restrictions, perhaps the Board for Decision on Unfair Labor Practices based on the Act for Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes (勞資爭議處理法) could serve as a reference for how the ministry could set up an independent labor fund supervisory committee and give workers faith and peace of mind.
Cheng Chih-yu is a professor in the Institute for Labor Research at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Perry Svensson

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