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Labor group stresses overseas workplace injuries

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries (TAVOI) yesterday criticized the government for being too passive about the recognition of overseas occupational injuries.

The TAVOI said more and more Taiwanese employees have been dispatched to other countries by their companies in the past few years, noting that, however, the employees encounter difficulties when they have occupational injuries in the foreign countries.

The civic group said a 46-year-old employee surnamed Lin was dispatched to China by his company and had worked 12-hour days regularly. The TAVOI said Lin later died of symptoms suggesting overwork.

The TAVOI went on to say that in general, records of working hours and working days are usually not recorded in detail in China, and as a result the company cannot reach a consensus with Lin's family regarding the cause of death. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) therefore rejected the compensation request filed by Lin's family, the group said.

The TAVOI Secretary-General Huang Hsiao-ling (黃小陵) said the group has received numerous similar requests, noting that the common ground in these cases is that it is hard for the government to recognize occupational injuries when they take place outside of Taiwan.

Huang further said that it is difficult to determine the cause and effect in an overwork death incident, noting that it is hard for the government or the family to collect relevant evidence to prove the cause of death, especially if the incident happened in a foreign country.

Hung said the government should demand that employers keep all work-related records of their employees, stressing that the government should proactively assist the victims' families in collecting evidence from the time of the incident. The government should not listen to employers' one-sided stories of occupational injuries or diseases, Huang said.

MOL's Response

The MOL responded, saying that the determination of occupational injuries and disease is usually based on the territorial principle. The ministry further explained that if an employee goes to a foreign country to work, then he or she has to abide by the foreign country's regulations, adding that it is hard for the MOL to intervene by conducting labor inspections.

The MOL said the Bureau of Labor Insurance will handle occupational injuries or diseases, noting that, however, it is difficult to investigate the incidents if they take place in a foreign country. The MOL said, however, the government will “do its best” to believe the information and evidence provided by the employees' families.

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