Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Labor amendments return for scrutiny

Labor amendments return for scrutiny

BYPASSEDThe proposed changes do not guarantee workers a five-day workweek, employees can still work overtime on their days off, KMT Legislator Wang said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

A member of staff from the Presidential Office accepts a request addressed to President Tsai Ing-wen from workers’ rights demonstrators yesterday. The request asks Tsai to hold a public hearing on the government’s proposed reduction of national holidays.

Photo: CNA

A review of amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) was restarted yesterday, as members of the Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee completed a question-and-answer session with government officials regarding the proposed changes.
The amendments are aimed at bolstering earlier reforms by implementing a universal 40-hour workweek, which drew criticism for not guaranteeing additional weekly days off to compensate for the elimination of seven national holidays.
The committee is to attempt to review and consolidate seven different versions of the amendments this week, following a cross-caucus agreement to return the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) official version to the committee after it was controversially sent directly to cross-caucus negotiations last month.
In addition to the DPP caucus’ and the Executive Yuan’s versions, the other legislative caucuses have also proposed their own versions, as have DPP Legislators Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) and Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤).
Whether the measures to institute a weekly “flexible rest day” in addition to an existing “mandatory day off” would guarantee sufficient additional rest time and pay was a key point of contention throughout yesterday’s question-and-answer session, which saw legislators across party lines cross-examine Minister of Labor Kuo Fong-yu (郭芳煜).
“I think that the main difference after the amendments would only be an increase in overtime rates for the ‘flexible rest day,’” DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said, calling for the ministry to release estimates on how much the amendments would do to reduce average working hours.
“There is no way the amendments can guarantee a five-day workweek, because employees can still legally work overtime [on their rest day],” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said, adding that rates for working on a “flexible rest day” are the same with regular work day overtime rates.
New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said it is questionable whether employees would receive overtime pay, given the failure of many employers to follow existing overtime regulations.
Kuo said that new labor inspection personnel, combined with the new “complementary measures,” should be sufficient to effect meaningful change, adding that average monthly working hours have fallen from 175 before previous reforms to 168 in the first half of this year.
A public hearing on the proposed changes is to be held tomorrow, followed by a line-by-line review on Thursday, when the amendments are expected to pass committee review.
“The committee would not necessarily reach a conclusion, in which case we would hold further cross-caucus negotiations or address the matter in a legislative session,” said DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), who attended yesterday’s committee meeting, reaffirming that the DPP caucus intends to pass amendments by the end of this year.

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