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Labor group, Filipino workers protest against high brokerage fees

2015/10/18 21:05:11

Oct. 18 (CNA) A migrant labor group staged a protest in front of the Manila Economic and Culture Office (MECO) in Taipei on Sunday, decrying what it said were illegal and exorbitant brokerage fees and an increase in the costs for Filipino workers to file complaints via MECO.

The Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA), along with dozens of Filipino workers, appealed to MECO to protect the rights of workers, whom they said were being exploited and treated as part of a business transaction.

The protest was focused on two major issues related to policy changes by the MECO.

Under the new policy, MECO's processing fee for helping Filipino workers file labor complaints has been increased from NT$1,000 (US$31) to NT$1,200, while the complaints are no longer dealt with in Taiwan but rather are sent to an agency in the Philippines.

"We want a formal negotiation to take place in MECO, nothing behind closed doors," said Jingru Wu, a representative of TIWA, at the protest. "In fact we'd rather have a dialogue here on the road, right now, than have an informal dialogue."

Wu said the TIWA has held talks with MECO many times over the past two decades.

"We will wait for a concrete proposal from MECO, and if there isn't one, we will be back," she said.

The group argued that it is unjust to ask workers to pay to seek help with labor disputes.

It also said that sending cases to the Philippines for hearing means that the workers cannot properly represent themselves in any dispute.

In addition, the group called for the long awaited direct-hiring system to be implemented soon to replace the profit-oriented private brokerage system.

The current system is exploitive, the TIWA said, adding that Filipino workers are being asked to pay brokerage fees of NT$70,000-NT$200,000 for no good reason.

According to the Labor Ministry, there were some 580,000 migrant workers in Taiwan as of the end of August, 20 percent of whom were Filipinos.

(By Zoe Wei and Rachel McGuffin)