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December, 4, 2016

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Labor unions to march for 123 days off

Labor unions say they will stage a thousands-strong rally Tuesday against what they describe as the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) "unrelenting determination" to pass a controversial workweek bill.

 At a protest outside the Legislative Yuan announcing the rally, labor representatives chanted: "We reject the brutal, black-box legislative process" and called on the government to "defend 19 public holidays and ensure 123 annual days off"

The 123 League — a national coalition of labor unions — demanded lawmakers send the workweek bill back to committee, hold public hearings and maintain the current mandated 123 days off every year, the figure from which the group derives its name.

 The bill, which mandates one day off every week and another "flexible" day off for which employees must be paid overtime should they work, is on the brink of entering cross-party negotiations.

A floor vote on the bill will be held immediately if the negotiations are successful. Should the talks fail, the vote will be delayed by one month.

The march will depart from outside the DPP's Taipei headquarters and end at the Legislature Yuan.

The 123 League said it expects to attract at least 2,000 members to the rally.

On Oct. 5, DPP lawmakers forced the bill through committee, triggering fury from opposition lawmakers and sparking protests outside the Legislature Yuan.

Intolerable Gov't Actions: Activists

A researcher for the Taiwan Higher Education Union (台灣高等教育產業工會) Chen Po-chien (陳柏謙) warned that the protestors would steadfastly refuse any attempts by the DPP to cull the number of days off: "(We) cannot allow a single holiday from the 19 national day off to be slashed.

"The DPP-led government has used a brutal one-minute procedure to pass through a bill that would cut seven national holidays out of the committee, a bill that is relevant to millions of workers nationwide.

"Labor workers cannot continue to tolerate this ... This protest will not be the last."

Chiang Cheng-lung, deputy president of a labor union for government cleaners, pointed out that cleaners are actually subject to the Labor Standards Act and thus do not receive a public servant's preferable wage and benefits despite working for local government agencies.

Government agencies should be the most law-abiding sector, yet cleaners are not guaranteed overtime pay due to budget restrictions, he explained.

If cleaners exceed a required cap, the overtime pay could only be converted into holidays, Chiang said: "Even labor workers working for government agencies can't be guaranteed overtime pay, let alone workers at private enterprises."

Labor Rights Association Chairman Lo Mei-wen blamed Taiwan's long working hours on the prevalence of unpaid overtime: "It has become a society in Taiwan where workers from all kinds of industries have to work 24 hours a day."

Lo further criticized the government for failing to consider labor rights and choosing to pander to corporations.

Opposition Must Take a Stand

Tainan Confederation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Huang Yu-te told The China Post that they indeed welcome opposition party representatives, such as Kuomintang (KMT) for they have advocated to hold public hearings as well, to participate in the march.

"However, they really need to roll out concrete measures in face of the DPP majority in the legislature," he said. "What KMT lawmakers did on Oct. 5 wasn't enough."

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