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September 26, 2017

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Migrant workers say no to brokers, Ministry of Labor responds

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- On the eve of Taiwan's annual Labor Day demonstration, about 500 migrant workers gathered from across Taiwan for a protest that ended at the Presidential Office.

Organized by the Taiwan International Workers' Association, the group started form the Labor Ministry in the afternoon and ended at the Presidential Office, where they held signs appealing for an end to the private brokerage system.

Protesters called for the private employment brokerage system, which charges fees that can exorbitant and exploitative, to be replaced with a direct hiring system mediated by the government.

They also appealed for migrant workers to be allowed to transfer freely between employers.

According to the Employment Service Act (就業服務法), migrant workers may not transfer to another employer before a contract expires, unless the employer dies or leaves the country.

Current law forces workers to accept mistreatment until their contracts expire, which is tantamount to removing labor protection, protesters said.

'Direct hiring already exists'

The Ministry of Labor later issued a statement that Taiwan already had a direct hiring system.

Brokers exist because there is a market demand — many Taiwanese employers are unfamiliar with labor laws or do not have time to study them, the ministry said.

In addition, many migrant workers in Taiwan depend on broker-provided services in everyday life, according to the statement.

The ministry said that it had already formed a "direct hiring service center" so that employers who wished to could hire foreign labor without going through a broker, and it had already established an accreditation system for brokers to ensure their quality.

The Ministry of Labor said that it would improve the mechanisms in the existing direct hiring system.

Easier Employer Transfers on Horizon?

The ministry also said reviewing the eligibility requirements for employee transfers and was preparing a bill to enable migrant workers to switch to a new employer so long as employer and labor agree.

The ministry added that it was developing a pilot program to ease the round-the-clock responsibilities of migrant caregivers.

Under the program, the employer can apply to licensed long-term care providers for substitute caregivers on holidays.

'10,000' to March Today

Today on Labor Day, an estimated 10,000 local workers will take to the streets in a Labor Day march to call for greater protection of labor rights.

They will gather outside the Presidential Office and embark toward the buildings of the Chinese National Federation of Industries and the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China at 1 p.m.

Protesters are expected to urge against reform of the labor pension system as it applies to civil servants, public school teachers and military personnel.

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