Friday, December 25, 2015

Labor advocates storm Eric Chu’s campaign office

Labor advocates storm Eric Chu’s campaign office

HOLIDAY CUTS:Activists said that slashing holidays to make way for a new 40-hour workweek system would increase, not ease, the burden of workers

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Workers’ rights campaigners clash with police yesterday as they protest outside the election campaign headquarters of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu in Taipei.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Dozens of workers’ advocates yesterday stormed the campaign headquarters of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) to protest a government decision to reduce the number of official holidays.
Members of Labor Struggle (工鬥) — a coalition of scores of workers’ groups formed in October to bring to the fore the issue of labor rights, which the groups believe has been largely ignored in the presidential race — took campaign headquarters staff by surprise yesterday morning when they stormed into the building and sprayed the walls with the slogan: “Return our holidays.”
After clashing with police, the protesters were evicted. The coalition accused the police of turning a blind eye to a KMT staff member kicking some activists and pulling their hair.
At least one protester was handcuffed and taken away by police.
The activists were railing against the Ministry of Labor’s amendment to the Enforcement Rules of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法施行細則), announced on Dec. 9, changing the number of official holidays per year from 19 to 12 days.
The revisions were made following the legislature’s passage in May of the amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), capping the number of working hours to 40 every week, instead of 84 hours every two weeks, starting on Jan. 1.
The ministry has said that under the new system, workers would enjoy 13 more days off per year compared with the current system. As such, even after the number of holidays are reduced, workers would still have six more days off, it said.
However, the coalition says that passing a 40-hour workweek regulation does not guarantee that all workers will be able to enjoy two days off per week.
“As Article 36 of the Labor Standards Act still stipulates that ‘a worker shall have at least one regular day off every seven days,’ capitalists can make up for the two hours of work that would be cut every week by asking people to work overtime,” the group said after storming the Ministry of Labor offices on Tuesday last week.
The coalition yesterday said that while Chu has “constantly boasted that the two days off per week is a KMT policy achievement, it should be noted that a 40-hour workweek does not automatically equate to two days off per week.”
The policy is “a lie that disregards workers’ needs by justifying the seven-day-holiday cut with the new 40-hour workweek,” it said.
KMT spokesperson Lee Ming-hsien (李明賢) said the public “should not tolerate the actions of people who express their views via irrational and violent means.”
“Chu has long said that workers should have more days off. These people are barking up the wrong tree,” Lee said, adding that the protesters got inside the building by pretending they were visiting and hurt several volunteers.
The group said that “the true violence is slashing holidays when Taiwanese workers are already overworked” and rejecting negotiations with workers’ groups, leaving them with no choice but to use their bodies to fight for the rights of exploited workers.
“As KMT chairman and New Taipei City mayor, Chu can still draw a salary even when he takes a break to campaign for the presidency,” the group said.
“The KMT administration has slashed the workers’ holidays with an executive order to curry favor with capitalists before the elections,” it said.
“The KMT should be held accountable for workers’ missing days off,” the coalition said.

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