Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday clashed over a proposed amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) during a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee presided over by DPP Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩), who rushed through the proceedings and declared the review concluded in less than two minutes.
The DPP caucus called for a review of the proposed amendment that involves the controversial “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” in every seven working days.
No other caucuses agree with the proposal and are calling for “two fixed days off.”
The difference between “rest day” and “fixed day off” is whether employers are allowed to ask employees to work overtime on fixed days off; they can under the flexible rest day off policy.
DPP and KMT lawmakers started the tug-of-war on Tuesday night, with KMT lawmakers occupying the room that is usually used for Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee meetings. DPP lawmakers changed the meeting room and then occupied it.
About half an hour before the scheduled 9am start time for the meeting, KMT lawmakers arrived at the new meeting room chanting: “The DPP is forcing through [the amendment] and [President] Tsai [Ing-wen (蔡英文)] has betrayed workers.”
The room soon plunged into chaos, with DPP and KMT lawmakers scuffling, while dozens of camera crews filmed the melee. A voice was heard calling for people to back down for fresh air.
KMT lawmakers held banners, shouted slogans and said that changing the location of the meeting was “against the law.”
KMT lawmakers called out the names of DPP lawmakers who have long been considered labor friendly, such as Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤) and Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬), and accused them of betraying and deceiving workers.
DPP lawmakers criticized the KMT in return, calling the party a “political chameleon.”
KMT lawmakers called for public hearings before the review.
Their DPP counterparts asked why the KMT did not arrange for public hearings when former committee coconvener KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) chaired a meeting of the committee in July.
Both parties have accused the other of physical assaults during the brawl.
At 9am, Chen announced the start of the meeting. Legislative staff took 14 minutes to read through the amendment proposals, during which time lawmakers continued to quarrel.
At 9:14am, Chen, with a DPP majority, announced the end of the session, saying that the review was “complete” and referred the amendment to cross-caucus negotiations before the floor meeting when final reading takes place.
When Chen asked whether there was opposition to the decision she received mixed responses, but continued to pronounce the meeting’s end at 9:16am.
After the session KMT lawmakers said that Chen was a “runaway” chairwoman and that the meeting was illegitimate.
The KMT caucus held a news conference after DPP lawmakers left the session.
“That was a glorious battle for Tsai, but it was a miserable day for Taiwan’s 9 million workers,” KMT caucus secretary-general Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said, adding that it was a betrayal of workers who have long supported the DPP.
KMT caucus convener Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) said Tsai’s directive to the DPP caucus that they ram through the amendment has made the administration a “centralized authority” and the Legislative Yuan a “legislative bureau,” adding that the KMT “stands firmly with workers and for their rights.”
KMT legislators labeled Chen’s actions a “shame for democracy” and called her “one-minute Ying,” in reference to “half-a-minute Chung,” a name given to former KMT legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠), who tried to push through the cross-strait service trade agreement in 30 seconds and helped sparked the 2014 Sunflower movement.
In a post-meeting news conference, the DPP caucus reiterated the validity and procedural integrity of the committee meeting.
DPP caucus chief executive Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said Chen’s actions were different from those of Chang’s, which were not in accordance with meeting procedures.
Chen conducted the meeting according to procedure and the meeting was recorded in its entirety, Wu said.
Asked by reporters why she did not respond to KMT legislators’ request to discuss the bill when she announced the completion of the review and asked for objections, Chen said she could not hear KMT lawmakers as the meeting room was too loud.