A new Ministry of Labor interpretation of how to regulate workers’ “mandatory day off” drew mixed reaction from labor groups yesterday, with some saying the interpretation leaves a loophole for employers, while others called the issue inconsequential.
“The content is not substantially different from the previous interpretation,” Taipei Confederation of Trade Unions executive director Chen Shu-lun (陳淑綸) said. “The solution here should be firms paying and hiring more, rather than getting legal exceptions — the ministry’s decision will just lead to further demands from other industries to be included [in the exceptions].”
The new interpretation announced on Thursday is a more rigorous interpretation of the “seven days” during which an employee must take a “mandatory day off” under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法). It includes a list of exceptions for specific kinds of work, such as meat processing and transportation during national holidays.
A more lenient interpretation of “seven days” applies to the exceptions, giving affected firms greater flexibility in scheduling shifts.
The ministry originally planned to apply the stricter interpretation across the board, but did a U-turn after bus companies announced massive cuts to their weekend and national holiday schedules.
Even though the scope of the new exceptions is more specific than the previous regulations, the ministry’s flip-flop raises questions about whether it will stand firm against calls to apply them to additional business sectors, Chen said, dismissing a statement by Deputy Minister of Labor Liao Hui-fang (廖蕙芳) that firms would only be allowed to make a “one-time” use of the exceptions.
“There’s no process to enforce the restrictions, except the requirement that employees give their consent,” Chen said.
“We are OK with anything that guarantees a definite amount of rest time under reasonable conditions,” National Drivers’ Union secretary-general Huang Shu-hui (黃淑惠) said, adding that the changes were “inconsequential” because either a flexible or rigid interpretation of “seven days” would be acceptable to union members.
General Chamber of Commerce chairman Lai Cheng-i (賴正鎰) said that because only “one-time” use of the exceptions is allowed, the regulations would not resolve the problems of some industries, such as security and travel firms.
Additional reporting by Huang Pang-ping and Lo Chien-yi