Saturday, October 8, 2016

Protesters call on DPP to act on foreign worker law

Protesters call on DPP to act on foreign worker law

EXPLOITATIVE:The rules turn migrant workers into slaves, an advocate said, while another said they allowed brokers to charge exorbitant fees for re-entry

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Migrant workers and labor rights advocates demonstrate in downtown Taipei yesterday, calling on the government to scrap the requirement that foreign blue-collar workers must leave the nation for one day every three years if they want to be rehired.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

Hundreds of migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday marched across downtown Taipei to pressure the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to push an amendment that scraps a requirement for foreign blue-collar workers to leave the nation for at least one day every three years if they want to be rehired.
About 1,500 workers from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand gathered in front of the DPP headquarters in Taipei to urge the party caucus to speed up the process of amending the Employment Service Act (就業服務法).
The act allows labor agencies to charge a brokerage fee of between NT$80,000 and NT$150,000 (US$2,550 and US$4,782) to secure re-entry for workers and it takes between 12 months and 18 months for a worker to pay the fee, the Taiwan International Workers’ Association said.
“The act exploits migrant workers and turns them into slaves,” Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office executive director Nguyen Peter Van Hung said.
Protesters carried props shaped like skinned humans, symbolizing how the act fleeces migrant workers, as they marched from the DPP headquarters to the Legislative Yuan building.
The Legislative Yuan in July passed the first reading of an amendment to the act set to abolish the rule, but the DPP caucus did not put the amendment on the agenda in this legislative session, although it promised to finalize the legislation in this session, Chen said.
During a meeting between Premier Lin Chuan (林全) and civil groups in August, Lin said the government’s attitude toward the rule was in line with that of the rights advocates and the rule was likely to be abolished in this session, but it was not designated as a priority bill and no discussions were held about the amendment, association secretary-general Betty Chen (陳容柔) said.
“The DPP controls the legislature and the government. Why does it not push for the legislation?” she asked, calling on the party to bring the amendment to the legislative floor for a final reading.
The rule causes many migrant workers to overstay their visas and work illegally after they complete a three-year contract to avoid the large brokerage fees, Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Center member Liu Hsiao-ying (劉曉櫻) said.
The scrapping of the rule would also benefit employers, as they could renew contracts with their employees without an absence period, and they could negotiate flexible leave time with them, Liu said.
Brokers say that the amendment would increase the number of illegal migrant workers and
relax the rules for their employment, but advocates said the issues are not relevant to the proposed amendment and the rumors were spread by the agencies to discriminate against migrant workers.
“The legislation is a matter of the welfare of 600,000 migrant workers and the households and businesses they serve. The government should scrap the exploitative rule to create a win-win situation for workers and employers,” association member Chen Hsiang-lien (陳香蓮) said.
DPP spokesman Yang Chia-liang (楊家俍) said the proposed legislation was put forward by DPP legislators Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) and Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴), and it has yet to undergo a cross-party negotiation.
Although the DPP has a majority in the legislature, the majority rule does not apply to cross-party negotiations, Yang said, without disclosing a timetable for the legislation.

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