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Union heads demand protection of labor rights

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
By Camaron Kao ,The China Post


Representatives from labor organizations from around Taiwan as well as students and foreign workers jointly held a massive Labor Day demonstration in Taipei yesterday to call on the government to better protect workers' rights and prevent hikes in tuition and other living costs.

Labor Minister Wang Ju-hsuan suggested that workers join unions and use collective bargaining to negotiate for better rights and treatment from employers, instead of waiting for the government to take action.

Members from the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, which comprises 22 labor unions, urged the government to institute several measures, including a ban on employers' practice of hiring temporary workers instead of permanent staff.

In addition to prohibiting temporary hiring through labor service brokers, the government should raise the minimum wage, reduce the maximum number of working hours and make it mandatory for employees in all businesses to have two days off per week, just like all government employees. The government should also make an effort to reduce vocational hazards, said Shih Chao-hsien, president of the alliance.

The alliance also called on the government to make it mandatory for workers in businesses that employ four people or fewer to be included in the labor insurance system.

Currently, only businesses that employ five people or more are required to join the labor insurance system.

The government should also quickly pass a new pension scheme bill for employees who work at state-run enterprises but do not qualify for annuities under the public servant pension system, the unions said.

Ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-jen promised support for the call to raise the minimum wage, restrict the practice of temporary hiring and limit working hours to a maximum of 40 per week.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Ying-yuan and Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Shih-chia both said they will support the unions' appeals.

Disabilities

Labor activists called on the relevant government agencies to allow physically challenged employees to retire sooner in light of the physically degenerative conditions among some disabled compatriots.

Huang Chih-chien, a disabled worker, said his physical condition has been deteriorating rapidly since he turned 48 and he is worried that he will not be able to keep working until the retirement age of 60.

Huang hopes he and others like him will be able to choose early retirement at age 50.

In response, Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Vice Minister Kuo Fang-yu said the council needs to consider whether the labor insurance scheme is in a financial position to cope with a lower retirement age.

The CLA is studying the feasibility of allowing disabled individuals to retire early and a decision can be expected in September, he said.

Collective Bargaining

Responding to the laborers' calls, CLA Chairwoman Wang Ju-hsuan said workers should consider using collective bargaining power to negotiate for better treatment at the workplace, instead of just passively waiting for the government to take the needed actions.

She said three amended labor laws that took effect exactly one year ago on Labor Day are “important weapons” for workers seeking better benefits.

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