A dozen students yesterday stormed the legislative office of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) to protest the party’s plans to cancel seven national holidays.
Members of the Taiwan Higher Education Union and Labor Struggle, a coalition of unions and student groups, occupied Ker’s office in an annex of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei ahead of a cross-party negotiation to discuss a draft amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) proposed by the DPP, which would reduce the number of public holidays from 19 to 12 and implement a five-day workweek with one mandatory day off and one “flexible rest day.”
The protesters demanded a public debate with Ker and called on the DPP to withdraw the bill.
Police evicted them after a 30-minute standoff and the protesters later held a news conference.
The protest was directed against Ker because of his role in the party’s negotiations with interest groups, particularly two “secret meetings” with corporate representatives in June and another meeting in August, the protesters said.
They criticized the DPP for rushing the bill through two legislative sessions on Oct. 5 and on Thursday last week, with even DPP legislators who profess to have progressive values mobilized to bulldoze it through, Labor Struggle member Cheng Chung-hao (鄭仲皓) said.
“The DPP administration claims that it is on the side of workers, but it held secret meetings with business leaders. What about the workers? Where is the promised communication?” Cheng said. “The DPP is basically the ‘capitalist’ progressive party.”
Ker said that the DPP had included a set of supporting measures in the bill and the legislation would be debated and negotiated according to due process.
“It is legislators with whom I should engage in a debate,” Ker said, brushing aside the protesters’ demands. “The legislature has its own rules.”
Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) denounced the protesters’ actions, saying they jeopardized the safety of legislators and legislative staffers.
Su drafted a legislative statement of condemnation, but the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus refused to endorse it.
DPP caucus chief executive Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said the protest was unacceptable, as legislators’ offices are private and that protesters might start occupying the homes of legislators if they fail to distinguish between public and private spaces.
KMT Legislator Lee Yan-hsiu (李彥秀) said the DPP had vowed to communicate with the public on major policies, but it has fueled social division by trying to force the bill through a divided legislature.
Lee asked Su to remain impartial when chairing cross-party negotiations or the opposition parties would launch an all-out boycott of the DPP’s bills.