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Labor groups protest DPP flipflop over 7 national holidays

2016/10/25 19:41:04

Taipei, Oct. 25 (CNA) Labor groups took to the streets on Tuesday to protest a bill that would eliminate seven public holidays and take away employees' right to two days off per week.

The groups made up of about 3,000 protesters set off from the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and circled Taipei Railway Station before reaching the front gate of the Legislative Yuan, where about a dozen protesters clashed with police as they hurled eggs and tried to storm the legislative building, only to be stopped by police.

Three protesters who suffered cuts and bruises trying to climb a wall into the legislative building were detained, according to Tsai Han-cheng (蔡漢政), head of Jieshou police station, Zhongzheng First Precinct under Taipei City Police Department.

Among the injured was Labor Unions Alliance representative Kuo Kuan-chun (郭冠均) who received treatment at a local hospital.

Huang Yu-te(黃育德), secretary-general of the Tainan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU), said the group would organize a hunger strike if the bill received a second reading in early November.

The DPP-controlled Legislative Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee pushed through a draft amendment to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) on Oct. 5 after a review process that took 60 seconds, a move that angered Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers and labor groups.

The draft amendment would implement a five-day work week with one fixed day off and one flexible rest day, while also keeping the number of national holidays to which workers are entitled at 12.

Huang Yu-te previously said the TCTU wanted the bill to be brought back to the legislative committee for a review and public hearings.

The protesters also insist that any new legislation on the issue should include a minimum of 123 days off a year (including weekends), meaning that the seven national holidays must be restored, according to Huang.

On Tuesday, New Power Party (NPP) Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said that after reviewing the minutes of the Oct. 5 committee meeting, he believes the passage of the draft amendment to be invalid.

Meanwhile, Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Wan-an(蔣萬安)also expressed opposition to the committee's decision.

In May 2015, when the KMT still had a majority in the Legislature, lawmakers passed an amendment guaranteeing a five-day work week for all workers in Taiwan for the first time, to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

The law had previously mandated a maximum of 84 hours work over a two-week period.

The Enforcement Rules of the Labor Standards Act were then revised in December 2015 to reduce the number of national holidays from 19 to 12 days to partly offset the reduction in work hours.

However, shortly after taking office on May 20 this year, with labor groups demonstrating for more time off and benefits, the DPP government vowed to reinstate the seven holidays.

Following several twists and turns in policy, the government opted for an amendment that would implement a 40-hour week with more generous overtime rules for the two days off than under the previous provisions.

The amendment also designated one of the two days off a "flexible" day off and the other a "compulsory" day off.

If workers work on the "flexible" day off, they will be entitled to high overtime pay; if they work on the "compulsory" day off, they will get a matching day off at a later date.

What angered labor groups was that this proposal by the government did not restore the number of national holidays to 19 as promised, but rather opted to keep 12 national holidays -- the number used by civil servants and many businesses already on a five-day work week.

Labor groups are demanding 19 national holidays in addition to a five-day week, while business associations argue the extra vacation time would be too costly.

(By Yu Hsiao-han, Elizabeth Hsu, Lee Hsin-Yin and Evelyn Kao)
Enditem/ AW