Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Opinion: First Taiwan Workers Must Learn How to Breathe

     My wife translated an interesting news story from TV yesterday. It was a report about a boss who fired seven of his workers because they said bad things about him on social media, “Line” in particular. I innocently asked how the boss knew they were bad-mouthing him and she said the boss had set up the “Line” account and had all his employees join with him. I asked if it were not unreasonable for the employees to have relations with their boss after work hours and she said it was not unusual, or illegal in Taiwan for bosses to have that relationship to keep in touch with their employees at a moment’s notice any time of day, even off days. 
     Of course, it begs the question: If the employees knew their boss could see what they had written negatively about him, why would they discuss him there? Didn't they think they would be putting their job in jeopardy if they did? At best, they should have been buttering-up their boss if they knew he was in on the conversation! 
     You can add this intrusion to other oppression bosses perpetrate on their employees without recourse such as overtime without pay, prohibiting tipping, withholding pay “bonuses” until year’s end, etc. Add to this the official prohibition on un-registered unions or even qualified unions if there are fewer than thirty employees present, plus the neo-liberal franchise import tactic of employing only part-timers to avoid having to give benefits, switching hours, branches or even telling workers to go home, unpaid, if business is bad. Trying to promote workers’ unions in Taiwan is like showing someone how to breathe before they have been born. Workers in Taiwan have a long way to go before establishing their rights in the workplace.

Workers cross the Line, get fired for app complaints

‘OVERREACTION’::A Miaoli County resort fired the seven workers for complaining about its rules via a private group chat on the messaging app Line

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff writer

Wed, Apr 22, 2015 - Page 3

Seven employees at a Miaoli County resort were dismissed amid charges that they slandered their employer via the popular messaging app Line, with advocates for workers’ rights saying the dismissal was disproportionate to the workers’ alleged infractions.
According to a report yesterday by the Chinese-language Apple Daily, the dismissed workers allegedly left messages in a private group chat on Line complaining about workplace rules, including a uniform fee charged by their employer.
Resort owner Huang Yu-hsiung (黃裕雄) said he discharged them because the messages contained defamatory language, the report said.
“Can I not dismiss employees who had a poor work ethic and who insulted their employer?” Huang was quoted as saying.
Commenting on the case, Taiwan Labor Front director Chang Feng-yi (張烽益) said that although the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) stipulates that it is legal to dismiss employees who have verbally or physically abused employers, Huang “overreacted by simply laying off [the employees], and dismissing this large number of workers might put [his reputation] at stake.”
Lawyer Liu Cheng-mu (劉正穆) said that making insults in a private group chat can result in libel charges, as a group message can “reach a number of readers simultaneously,” which meets the requirements of libel in the Criminal Code.
Miaoli County Government division head Chiu Hsiao-ming (邱曉明) said the government has not yet received any complaints over the matter, adding that employers are not required to report any dismissal of less than one-third of staff members, according to the Mass Labor Layoff Protection Act (大量解雇勞工保護法).

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