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Labor unions in healthcare industry protest against new work rule

2018/01/23 17:08:00

Taipei, Jan. 23 (CNA) Unions in the healthcare industry staged a protest outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) on Tuesday, calling for a reinstatement of the mandated 11 hours of rest between work shifts, a rule that was removed in the recent amendments to Taiwan's labor laws.

Under the newly amended Labor Standards Act, employees can be asked to work with only an eight-hour break between shifts, a change that the healthcare unions said would lead to overwork and increase the risk of errors on the job.

In response, the health ministry invited representatives of the healthcare industry -- workers and employers -- to discuss how best to apply the regulation on the minimum rest period between work shifts on Tuesday.

According to the amendment, the supervisory government agency, which in the case of the medical profession is the MOHW, must give approval for employers to ask their workers to take a break of less than 11 hours between shifts.

The MOHW's official stance on the matter is that employers in the healthcare industry should maintain the minimum 11-hour rest period between shifts, except in cases of epidemics, natural disasters or emergency, when it could be reduced to eight hours at the least, said Tsai Shu-feng (蔡淑鳳), director-general of the ministry's Department of Nursing and Health Care.

However, Chang Chiao-yu (張喬瑜), a member of the Taipei City Hospital Labor Union, said there is already a regulation in place under which medical professionals can be asked to work longer hours in extenuating circumstances.

Another protester, Wu Wen-an (巫文安) of the Chia-Yi Christian Hospital Union, said the new rule could lead to mistakes in the profession as medical personnel would be more prone to errors if they do not have adequate rest between shifts.

The solution, Wu said, is to increase staff so that there will be more flexibility to arrange schedules to cover the work load.

With the current staffing situation, shortening the rest period between shifts would only lead to overwork and staff shortages on the later shift, which does not help to solve the problem, he said.

The labor law amendment, which was passed in the Legislature on Jan. 10, is set to go into effect on March 1.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Kuan-lin Liu)