By Abraham Gerber and Chen Wei-han / Staff reporters
Lawmakers tussle yesterday during a meeting of the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, as the committee’s Democratic Progressive Party majority approved a controversial amendment to the Labor Standards Act.
Fighting broke out at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-controlled committee approved a controversial amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
Torn papers and signs littered the committee chamber’s floor and desks after a 20-minute fracas that saw Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators throw themselves against a cordon of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers.
“How can you bully us like this,” KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) shouted, grappling at the arms of several DPP legislators as fellow KMT members yelled for the consideration of a motion to overturn a review conducted on Oct. 5.
KMT Legislator Arthur Chen (陳宜民) climbed onto the first row of desks in front of DPP Legislator Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴), one of the committee co-conveners, and engaged in a tussle with DPP Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) before being pushed off by DPP Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清).
The fracas erupted after Wu refused to take up a KMT motion following the official reading of minutes from the committee’s Oct. 5 meeting, instead relying on the DPP majority guarding her desk to confirm the minutes despite objections.
DPP members of the committee had moved to send the amendment directly to cross-caucus negotiations when the review began earlier this month, with the confirmation of the minutes being the final step before the amendment leaves the committee, following several weeks of break as the legislature held confirmation hearings for nominees for the Council of Grand Justices.
The amendment has stirred controversy, as it seeks to cut seven national holidays with the implementation of a five-day workweek with one mandatory day off and a “flexible rest day.”
After KMT legislators prevented the confirmation of the minutes by occupying the co-conveners’ desk on Wednesday, dozens of DPP legislators the same night locked themselves in the committee chamber and used their bodies to block the desks the moment the doors opened yesterday.
KMT legislators lined up in front of their DPP counterparts shortly after entering the committee chamber, claiming to be waiting to take their turn for “procedural remarks” and clamoring for Wu to yield the floor.
“All we demand is that the recordings [of the earlier meeting] be brought forward to correct the minutes,” KMT caucus whip Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) said.
After the minutes were confirmed, Sufin Siluko led other KMT lawmakers to the Control Yuan and Taipei District Court to protest, saying that the DPP’s “railroading” of inaccurate minutes made the party liable for falsification of documents.
Meanwhile, Wu told a news conference that the meeting was conducted fully in accordance with legislative procedures.
She said she decided that the committee would not consider a proposal filed by the KMT caucus about the proceedings of the Oct. 5 meeting, because it did not address the proceedings, but merely raised procedural questions.
The committee would have considered a motion to review the proceedings only if there was a mistake or omission, she added.
She put her decision to a vote, and it was approved 7-0, because no KMT legislator voted during the commotion.
She also rejected a proposal raised by the New Power Party (NPP) caucus because a caucus could not raise a proposal in a committee where it has less than three legislators, and only NPP Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) is a member of the committee.
The amendment is a responsible legislation to ensure a five-day workweek, unify the nation’s various leave schemes and increase paid annual leave for employees, DPP caucus chief executive Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said.
“Whoever is against the legislation does not have to support the DPP in the elections,” he added.
Wu Ping-jui accused the KMT and the NPP of employing double standards, as both demanded that hearings about the amendment be held, but they made no such demands when Wang chaired a committee meeting in July and approved a KMT amendment to the act