The legislature yesterday failed to pass proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) amid protests from opposition parties and labor groups outside the Legislative Yuan building.
The session is to resume on Tuesday, when lawmakers are expected to vote on the amendments.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) yesterday morning said that the amendments have dragged on for more than four months and employers and employees are both getting impatient, adding that the DPP’s version of the amendments is the “most responsible one that would strike a balance between the employees and the employers.”
The DPP caucus, following Ker’s remarks, agreed that the amendments would be cleared before the end of yesterday’s session, despite opposition from DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬), who said she would fight for her own values when it comes to voting.
Lin posted on Facebook that the DPP caucus announced in a caucus meeting that caucus members could not waver from the stance taken by the caucus, and failing to do so would be considered a breach of party discipline and result in punishment.
Following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) caucus meeting in the morning, KMT caucus convener Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) said that the “battlefront for the caucus has moved toward the import ban on food products from Japanese prefectures” surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
He said that the KMT caucus had its own version of the amendments and would negotiate with the DPP, but added that he had expected workers to form a strong opposition to the amendments, which “would have encouraged the KMT caucus to fight to the end.”
However, it seemed that it was not the case, and that made the KMT lawmakers hesitant, Sufin said.
The cross-caucus negotiation ended at about 4pm. No substantial consensus over the amendments was reached, but the KMT caucus agreed to withdraw their occupation of the speaker’s podium that they carried out since noon.
“They want a vote so let us vote and have two trains crash into each other,” said KMT Legislator Arthur Chen (陳宜民) after walking out of negotiations.
The floor meeting resumed with the speaker announcing an overall discussion of the amendments to the Labor Standards Act, which were expected to be followed by a clause-by-clause discussion.
DPP lawmakers called the amendments “flexible” enough to benefit both the employers and employees.
“Do not forget we have 3.8 million small and medium-sized enterprises and they would need flexibility in their operation,” DPP Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) said.
However, the discussion came to a halt after KMT Legislator Alicia Wang’s (王育敏) took to the podium to speak.
Wang asked why workers continued to protest “if the amendments were as good as the DPP lawmakers said they were.”
Her remarks were met with DPP lawmakers’ retorts and KMT lawmakers gathered around Wang.
“The DPP’s overbearing attitude is simply unbelievable. Did we interrupt your speech? This is tyranny of the majority,” KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said.
The legislative speaker tried to calm lawmakers and gave Wang extra time to finish her remarks, but could not assuage KMT lawmakers’ discontent and adjourned the session for 10 minutes to call for a cross-caucus negotiation.
The speaker said the session would continue on Tuesday.
The amendments seek to scrap seven national holidays and implement “one flexible rest day and one fixed day off” to accommodate a 40-hour workweek passed last year, and the DPP caucus has promised to make them up by increasing overtime pay and allowing workers to have annual leave days earlier than permitted by existing regulations.
The DPP caucus’ motion on annual leave would benefit younger employees with relatively few service years who are entitled to less annual leave days, the caucus said.
Regulations stipulate that employees can have seven annual leave days after a full year of service, 10 days after three years of service, 14 days after five years, 15 days after 10 years and one additional day with every additional year of service thereafter until it reaches the maximum 30 days after 25 years of service.
The DPP caucus proposed to allow those with six months of service to have three days of annual leave, seven annual leave days after one year of service, 10 days after two years, 14 days after three years, 15 days after five years and one additional day for every additional year of service after ten years of service until the limit of 30 days is reached.