Seven major business groups yesterday said they would terminate all labor negotiations on wages if the government fails to honor an agreement to cut the number of officially designated holidays per year from 19 to 12, as part of the government’s plans to implement a universal 40-hour workweek.
The controversy came after the Ministry of Labor on Monday last week announced the restoration of seven public holidays that the previous government had planned to cut from workers’ yearly holiday schedule.
The Executive Yuan on Tuesday last week officially annulled an amendment to the Enforcement Rules of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法施行細則) that would have removed seven public holidays from workers’ entitlements.
The restoration of the holidays comes a week after labor groups lodged a protest against the loss of the seven public holidays in front of the Executive Yuan building in Taipei.
The ministry held 35 hearings last year, at which labor and management representatives reached an agreement to cut weekly working hours from 84 hours over a two-week period to 40 hours per week, paving the way for the amendment’s implementation from Jan. 1 next year, Chinese National Federation of Industries chairman Hsu Sheng-hsiung (許勝雄) said.
The amendment was designed to guarantee workers two days off per week and reduce legal working hours from 84 hours every two weeks to 40 hours per week.
Despite the overall increase in total days off, there were terms and conditions attached to the amendment — lifting the monthly limit for overtime from 46 to 54 hours and axing seven public holidays — to protect workers’ rights to paid holidays and offset firms’ operating costs, Hsu said.
After deducting the seven national holidays, workers would receive the equivalent of additional six days off per year, Hsu added.
However, the amendment has been annulled, as the government breached the agreement, he said.
According to a ministry report, South Koreans worked an average of 2,124 hours in 2010, while workers in Singapore and Hong Kong clocked up 2,392 hours and Taiwanese worked 2,134 hours in the same year.
If the seven national holidays were cut, Taiwanese would work an average of 2,086 hours, still fewer than their counterparts in South Korea and Singapore, Hsu said.
Hsu urged the government to stick to the agreement reached and work to push the amendment through the Legislative Yuan.
Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce chairman Lin Por-fong (林伯豐) also called on the government to fulfill the agreement.
Lin had said that for every additional seven days off for workers, wage costs would increase by 2 percent for companies.
Minister of Labor Kuo Fan-yu (郭芳煜) said he hopes the major business groups will not suspend negotiations with workers over wage issues.
Kuo said he would communicate with the business groups regarding the government’s stance.
About 20 labor rights activists stormed into the Chinese National Federation of Industries head office, where the seven business associations were holding a news conference and issued their statement.