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New rules on foreign labor criticized

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chien Hsi-chieh criticized the inclusion of boarding and food expenses into the basic wage of laborers as an act contradicting the principles of human rights.

The legislator made the statement at a public hearing yesterday held at the Legislative Yuan. The public hearing, titled “accession into WTO and labor rights of foreign employees,” was attended by representatives of foreign employees, Catholic priests, legislators, and government officials.

KMT Legislator Lee Cheng-chong also voiced his protest against the inclusion of food and boarding expenses in the basic wage of laborers as determined by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA). Lee stated that he strongly supports international labor standards and principles as promoted by the International Labor Organization.

Legislator Chien Hsi-chieh said the inclusion of boarding and food expenses into the basic wage of laborers triggered complaints from foreign laborers not long ago. He suggested that the government take necessary measures to lower the commissions associated with the employment of foreign laborers.

The inclusion of boarding and food expenses in the basic wage of laborers took effect beginning Sept. 1. The new rule of the CLA allowed employers to deduct NT$2,500 per month from a laborer’s basic wage as food and boarding expenses.

Chien stated that although the new rule lowered labor costs for employers, it also slowed down the pace of industrial upgrading. He pointed out that the new rule exploits foreign laborers and deprives local underprivileged laborers of work opportunities.

Chien stated that the government should examine the operation of local labor brokerage companies which cooperate with foreign brokerage companies in exploiting foreign laborers. A laborer from an overseas country normally has to pay a high “introduction fee” to a foreign brokerage company, which then pays a high “commission” to the local brokerage company that landed a job for the foreign laborer. The exploitative system keeps a foreign laborer at work for a long time just to pay back the “introduction fee.”

Chien pointed out that the government had to take a systematic approach in solving labor problems. The continuous inflow of foreign laborers had created the effect of crowding out local underprivileged laborers, who were mostly aboriginal. The preference of local employers to hire foreign laborers has made it very difficult for aborigines to find jobs in Taiwan, said Du Ying-hsiang, a representative of local aborigines.

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