BETRAYAL:The NPP and the SDP also expressed their disapproval, saying that the legislature is not a ‘rubber stamp’ and questioned the lack of supporting measures
By Alison Hsiao / Staff reporter
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Alicia Wang, left, Johnny Chiang, center, and John Wu present the KMT caucus’ counterproposals to the government’s proposals on workers’ days off at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday said that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) directive to the legislature to “ram” through a proposed five-day workweek with “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” (一例一休) was a betrayal of workers.
Tsai on Monday instructed the Executive Yuan and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus at the first weekly High-Level Policy Coordination Meeting to push through a draft amendment to introduce a five-day workweek with two days off before the end of the year.
The KMT caucus said that Tsai’s changing of the phrase “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” to “two days off weekly” (周休二日) was an attempt to obfuscate the policy’s goals, as it still does not meet workers’ demands for “two fixed days off.”
KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said that changing the policy’s name is like putting old wine in a new bottle.
She added that the DPP’s attempt to spruce up the policy with a proposal to increase annual leave depending on length of service was an attempt to deceive young people.
KMT Legislator Arthur Chen (陳宜民) said that Minister of Labor Kuo Fong-yu (郭芳煜) should resign, as he let the president make the final decision on labor policy.
The legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee is scheduled to review the amendment today, with the KMT caucus saying it is standing firm on its “two fixed days off” policy.
The dispute over the workweek revolves around businesses not being allowed to ask employees to work overtime on their fixed days off, while workers would be allowed to work overtime on flexible rest days.
Article 36 of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) stipulates that “a worker shall have at least one regular [fixed] day off every seven days.”
An amendment to the act earlier this year changed work hours from 84 hours every two weeks to a 40-hour workweek, leaving an increase in the number of weekly days off in contention with Article 36, which has not been amended.
A proposal to remove seven national holidays for workers who do not enjoy two weekly days off before the amendment was implemented has further stirred the debate.
Labor groups said that many workers would still be asked by their employers to work on their rest days should “one flexible rest day” be implemented, and they would end up with fewer holidays if the seven national holidays were removed.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) yesterday also called the government’s new policy a betrayal of workers.
SDP convener Chen Shang-chih (陳尚志) slammed the president’s call to “unify all public holidays and establish a uniform system applicable to every person in the nation” as “extremely unconvincing.”
“The SDP’s stance is that everyone in the nation should enjoy at least 123 days of holidays and days off. The legislature should not approve standards that are disadvantageous to workers before all supporting measures have been worked out,” Chen Shang-chih said.
Chen Yu-hsin (陳又新), an SDP-affiliated lawyer, said that in Taiwan’s current labor environment, “it is a fantasy to have workers protected with [increased] annual leave,” citing complaints against employers who deny their workers’ rights to annual leave.
“National holidays are more effective ways for workers to rest,” he said, but added that the real focus of efforts should be the realization of effective labor inspection.
The New Power Party (NPP) also voiced its disapproval of the administration’s decision, with NPP caucus convener Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) saying that the legislature “is not a rubber stamp” and calling for more exchanges of opinion and public hearings before a final resolution.
NPP Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) questioned whether the decision was “responsible,” as there has been no evaluation of its potential effects.