Saturday, October 10, 2015

Labor groups announce year’s ‘struggle’ agenda

Labor groups announce year’s ‘struggle’ agenda

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Members of several labor groups gather on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei yesterday to pressure political parties to address the concerns of workers ahead of next year’s presidential and legislative elections. The horizontal banner reads “100 days and counting — workers fight.”

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

An election year “struggle” agenda was announced yesterday by labor groups, who called on major parties to make clear their positions on pensions, long-term healthcare, union law and other long-standing concerns.
Members of the National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories, Freeway Toll Collector Self-Help Association and numerous unions gathered on Ketagalan Boulevard to lay out their demands for the election year.
“We want to ... highlight how the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] has exploited us while in government, and make the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] see that they are not going to be able to step on us if they govern again,” National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories member Lu Chih-hung (盧其宏) said.
The alliance opposes the proposed pension cuts, Lu said, calling for the system to be expanded to include a “base pension” that would guarantee a basic standard of living.
National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories member Wu Jing-ru (吳靜如) said that the current pension system fails to provide a meaningful universal guarantee because benefits vary based on income and profession, disadvantaging the poor and long-term unemployed.
She also called for the establishment of a meaningful, government sponsored long-term care system for elderly and disabled people.
“Caregivers for the elderly, including both family members and foreign workers, are in a ‘sweat blood’ situation where they have to spend decades of their life working more than 10 hours a day to care for someone,” she said, adding that the law should be reformed to allow foreign caregivers to take time off and be included under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
In the long run, all foreign caregivers should be hired through the government to prevent exploitation, she said.
Government hiring practices were also criticized by activists, who said that most employees — other than civil servants — are hired on an informal basis that denies them important labor benefits such as pensions.
Lu said government claims that the purpose of using informal employment is to allow “flexibility” were “a lie” because many people have been working for decades, yet still fail to accumulate the “seniority” that serves as the basis for national pension calculations because they are not formal employees.
Activists called on the government to only hire workers on a formal basis and to compensate existing employees for the years of “seniority” that they had not been allowed to accumulate.

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