Monday, March 2, 2015

Ministry looks to Burmese workers to solve shortage

Ministry looks to Burmese workers to solve shortage

‘SLAVE LABOR’::Taiwan International Workers’ Association researcher Wu Jing-ru said that the treatment of foreign workers is ‘shameful’

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Sun, Mar 01, 2015 - Page 3

The Ministry of Labor is in talks about introducing workers from Myanmar to mitigate the impact of an expected shortage of domestic workers, Deputy Minister of Labor Chen I-min (陳益民) said on Friday.
Chen’s comments were made in response to Indonesia’s recently announced plans to gradually stop sending domestic caretakers to Taiwan, starting from 2017.
During an interview with Indonesian Web site Liputan6 on Wednesday, Agency of Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers head Nusron Wahi said that Indonesia is to follow Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s policy of bringing Indonesian domestic caretakers back home.
Indonesia is to stop sending domestic caretakers to the Middle East this year, while a ban on those in the Asia-Pacific region — including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia — will be gradually implemented starting in 2017, Wahid said.
He added that Indonesia would focus on exporting skilled labor in the future by providing migrant workers with training programs, saying that the policy would help Indonesians receive better salaries abroad.
Widodo has made the protection of the rights of Indonesian migrant workers one of his top priorities since he was inaugurated as president in October last year, saying that the issue was “a matter of national dignity.”
Last year, the case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian maid in Hong Kong who was brutally tortured by her employer over the course of eight months, sparked a public outcry in Indonesia and other migrant worker-exporting nations.
As of last month, among a total of more than 500,000 migrant workers in Taiwan, about 220,000 were employed as domestic caretakers, including more than 170,000 Indonesians.
Foreign domestic caretakers in Taiwan typically receive a monthly wage of about NT$15,840, well below the minimum wage of NT$19,273. Unlike migrant workers employed in manufacturing, domestic caretakers are not protected under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), which caps work hours at 84 hours every two weeks.
In December last year, Wahid told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that Indonesia would reconsider its plans if Taiwan engages in reforms to improve the working conditions of migrant workers by ensuring that wages for Indonesian domestic caretakers fulfill minimum-wage requirements, that work hours are limited to a level consistent with local law and that domestic caretakers are housed in dormitories.
Chen on Friday said that the Ministry of Labor is still working on a draft version of the Domestic Worker Protection Act (家事勞工保護法), adding that the ministry fully supports equal rights for migrant workers.
However, the ministry’s plans to introduce migrant workers from Myanmar or other nations provoked serious criticism from labor rights advocates.
“The most shameful part is that not only does [the government] take no action on reforming a system that is akin to slave labor, but now we’re trotting around the globe to find new sources of slave labor,” Taiwan International Workers’ Association researcher Wu Jing-ru (吳靜如) said.

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