Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Labor and food laws amended

Labor and food laws amended

COASTAL PROGRESS::A long-stalled Coastal Zone Management Act reached its third reading, ‘deeply moving’ Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator Chiu Wen-yen

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jan 21, 2015 - Page 3

In Taipei, the legislature yesterday passed amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), in relation to the recent controversies over laid-off factory workers and untraceable meat products.
The Coastal Zone Management Act (海岸管理法) — a draft that had been discussed since the 1990s — also reached its third reading.
Under the amended labor act, workers from liquidated or bankrupt firms have the same priority as creditors in receiving payments. The move has been seen as a response to recent protests by laid-off factory workers — most conspicuously, the Hualon Self-Help Organization — over wages, pensions and severance packages left unpaid by bankrupt firms.
Also passed was the broadening of the range of qualified use of the “arrears wage payment fund” — established by an employer’s required monthly contributions at a fixed rate of the workers’ wages — from only workers’ six-month wages to include pensions and severance packages. For this expansion, the rate at which employers must contribute to the fund has also been increased.
While the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus lauded the amendments as a “landmark” achievement, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said the legislation has diminished workers’ rights, as their rights were not made the top priority.
“It has failed to meet workers’ expectations,” Lin said.
The amendment to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation allows authorities to require restaurants and other vendors to list product origins and “other necessary items” on certain products.
The rules could be applied to hotpot soup bases and restructured meats, the sources of which have so far been poorly identified.
Agricultural products that have passed domestic certifications must list their traceable production sources in a legislative response to a scandal involving mislabeled eggs.
Until yesterday, the Coastal Zone Management Law had been stuck between ministries and the legislature for “at least a quarter of a century,” KMT Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥) said after its third reading.
The law — comprising 46 articles — has identified the Ministry of the Interior as the related authority and stipulates that coastal areas with precious and crucial aquatic resources and ecological diversity must be rated as first-grade coastal protection zones, while other areas in need of protection could be listed as second-grade protection zones.
The ministry must identify boundaries of the coastal zones to be regulated within six months and announce the designated zones within two years.
The new law also prohibits the monopolization of and artificial construction in and on immediate offshore areas and public natural beaches.
Chiu, a professor who specializes in marine resource conservation and ocean governance, said he was “enormously moved” by the passage of the draft, calling the act “a second piece of the puzzle, after the Wetland Conservation Act (溼地保育法), to the completion of the three laws concerning national land.”
Lin said the legislation is long overdue, after decades of ignorance from past governments about the nation’s marine policies, “which had blocked [Taiwanese as] the people of the ocean from the ocean.”
“Ninety-four percent of the west coast is artificial and the east coast has been improperly exploited,” she added.
Lin also challenged an attached resolution that said public infrastructure or public businesses could be permitted in the protected areas if they do not affect the main objects in need of protection.
“This is tantamount to obsoleting the whole act,” Lin said.

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