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3,000 take to streets in protest against labor law amendment

2017/12/10 22:40:44

Kaohsiung, Dec. 10 (CNA) An estimated 3,000 people took to the streets in the southern port city of Kaohsiung Sunday in protest against a controversial labor law amendment.

The protesters, mostly members of more than 10 labor groups in southern Taiwan, rallied at Kaohsiung Central Park before marching to the Executive Yuan's Southern Taiwan Joint Services Center, in front of which they were stopped by barricades and policemen that had been deployed there earlier in the day.

Seeing no one came out from the government building to answer their call, some angry activists started to throw water balloons toward the front gate. At one point, some protesters tried to break through the barricades but failed.

Kaohsiung City Confederation of Trade Unions Chairman Lin Chin-yuan (林進原), who was the leader of the march, blasted the government for having not listened to the voices of workers.

With a change that would see employees work 12 days in a row, instead of six days under the existing law, the amendment will do nothing but turn the Labor Standard Act into "an evil law," he said.

Lin argued that no workers want to work overtime except those earning a low wage. Instead of revising the law to satisfy the needs of employers, the government should raise the minimum wage to NT$30,000 (US$998) from the current NT$22,000 a month, he said.

"Workers will express their discontent with ballots in the major elections at the end of next year if the new government continues to break its promises to workers," said Lin.

He was referring to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which beat the Kuomintang in the 2016 presidential and legislative elections to regain power it once held from 2000 to 2008. The "new" government was sworn in in May last year.

The amendment to the Labor Standards Act, proposed by the Executive Yuan on Nov. 9, makes five major changes to the five-day workweek system that the government pushed through last November and took effect Jan. 1.

A major change under the amendment would see employees work 12 days in a row, as opposed to the current rule of a mandatory day off in any seven-day period.

It would also reduce the amount of rest time required between shifts from 11 hours to eight, angering workers in many professions.

The amendment bill has passed a committee review in the Legislature, pending two more "readings" at the plenary sessions of lawmakers.

(By Cheng Chi-fung and Elizabeth Hsu)