The government is under increasing pressure as laborers and employers unpack the details of a new workweek law and the general public begins to feel its impact.
Just days into the new year, the government's workweek policy, which came into effect on Dec. 23, has already made headlines.
Following reports of businesses raising prices to make up for rising personnel costs, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) told the local daily China Times that "cost increases were inevitable" for labor-intensive industries.
Although Lin expressed hope that new rules governing overtime pay would prompt companies to increase employment or to give their workforce more rest time, businesses, workers and think tanks were not as optimistic.
'A policy where hardly anyone wins'
The new rules may result in a "triple loss" for workers, businesses and consumers, according to Lai Cheng-yi (賴正鎰), chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China.
Secretary-General Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生), of the Chinese National Federation of Industries, spoke out against the inflexibility of the new policy, which he said "made scheduling work hours for businesses with five or fewer staff members impossible."
New labor rules set a cap on overtime work and stipulate that employees must receive one day off for every six days of work.
Local media reported that employers were already having trouble hiring help — a problem set to be exacerbated by tighter constraints on scheduling and overtime pay.
Lin Bo-feng (林柏豐), chairman of the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce, Taiwan, compared the current price hikes to the "dual hikes" to fuel and electricity prices seen several years back.
He said the current situation was "worse than the dual price hikes of the past" because the latest hikes were accompanied by shrinking disposable incomes and rising operating costs.
The new workweek rules were"a policy where hardly anyone wins," Tsai said.
Lin said the policy would raise business costs by 5 to 8 percent — more than the 2 to 3 percent increase prompted by the fuel and electricity price hikes.
Workers Return to Protest
Representatives from various workers' union called themselves "the biggest losers" in the matter as they resumed demonstrations outside the Ministry of Labor Tuesday afternoon to demand what they called "much-needed action to close the loopholes" in the new workweek policy. The new workweek policy faced massive opposition from workers' groups even before its implementation last Dec. 23.
Guo Kuan-chun (郭冠均) of the Joint Struggle of the Workers (工鬥), the organizers of Tuesday's demonstration, pointed out problems with a policy that he said could lead to "workers working more and getting paid less."
A representative of The Union (台灣高等教育產業工會), Lin Po-yi (林柏儀) called out the premier and businesses that were claiming an increase in operating costs.
To be continued with www.chinapost.com.tw