Sunday, January 15, 2017

Firms exploiting loopholes in new rules: protesters

Firms exploiting loopholes in new rules: protesters

MISSED COMMITMENTS:An official cited a 1987 legal interpretation that requires employees to take leave if they promise to work on their day off, but do not

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Labor rights advocates protest outside the Ministry of Labor in Taipei yesterday against loopholes in the “one fixed day off, one flexible rest day” policy.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

The “one fixed day off and one flexible rest day” regulation is full of loopholes that employers have used to exploit workers since the policy took effect less than two weeks ago, unions said yesterday.
A coalition of workers’ unions staged a protest in front of the Ministry of Labor in Taipei, demanding that the ministry address loopholes in the scheme that have caused workers’ leave time and overtime pay to be cut.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has said that if people are willing to work on their “rest days,” they would receive more overtime pay under the new rules, which employers have exploited to deny workers overtime pay, instead giving them compensatory leave, Workers’ Struggle Alliance member Kuo Kuan-chun (郭冠均) said.
Overtime pay on rest days should be 1.33 times hourly wages for the first two hours of work and 1.67 times from the third to eighth hour of work, an average of 1.57 times daily wages, Kuo said, adding that if employers want to trade overtime for compensatory leave, they should grant workers 1.57 days.
However, the alliance has received reports of businesses giving workers just 24 hours of rest time after a full-time schedule on a rest day, effectively robbing them of 0.6 days of rest, he said, adding that if true, such actions have rendered the Tsai administration’s remark on the rules a lie.
Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) employees do not have full rest days, because the Ministry of Labor allows it to give employees 24 hours of leave after they have worked a 12-hour shift, which ends at 7:30am or 7:30pm, Taiwan Railway Union secretary Hsiao Nung-yu (蕭農瑀) said, adding that a complete rest day should last from 12am to 12pm.
By calculating workers’ rest time between shifts as their rest days, TRA employees have been denied compensatory days off and overtime pay since the rules were implemented, she said.
The union has since last year urged the TRA to expand its payroll to meet the expected personnel shortage caused by the new 40-hour workweek, she said.
A large Taoyuan-based cellphone manufacturer forced its employees to sign a letter of consent allowing it to move its days off on weekends to weekdays to avoid having to hire new workers to make up for lost productivity on weekends, Taoyuan Confederation of Trade Unions chairman Chuang Fu-kai (莊福凱) said.
“The company allegedly told its employees that if they refused to sign the letter, their right to work, benefits and chances of getting a raise might be affected,” Chuang said. “If you do not sign, you are likely to lose your job.”
The ministry is drafting a rule that would require workers to take leave if they agreed to work on their rest day, but could not keep that commitment due to personal reasons, the alliance said.
Workers are meant to rest on their days off; if they cannot make it to work as promised, or if they need to leave halfway through the day, they should not be made to take leave, which could be deducted from their annual or compensatory leave, it said.
The Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) prohibits employers from substituting overtime pay with compensatory leave, ministry official Wang Ya-fen (王雅芬) said, adding that employers must pay workers in cash if they ask them to overwork.
The TRA has not contravened the act, as it allocates 24 hours of rest time between employees’ shifts, Wang said.
Citing a 1987 legal interpretation by the ministry, Department of Labor Standards and Equal Employment Director Hsieh Chien-chien (謝倩蒨) said that workers are required to take leave if they promise their employers to work on a day off, but fail to keep the commitment.
She dismissed a question on whether employers can require workers to take leave if they work less than eight hours on a rest day, saying that in addition to their wages for the day, employees should be paid four times their hourly salary if they work less than four hours and eight times if they work between four and eight hours.

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