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Labor group blasts Tsai government for backsliding on labor rights

2018/05/20 19:40:48

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) An alliance of labor groups campaigning for a labor rights referendum denounced President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sunday for setting Taiwan's labor rights back 30 years during her two years in office since she was inaugurated on May 20, 2016.

The Labor Rights Referendum Alliance of Labor Groups expressed its dissatisfaction at a press conference on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office as the Tsai government was celebrating its second anniversary in power.

Over the past two years, Tsai has not only failed to carry out the pledges she made on labor rights during her presidential campaign, but also canceled seven statutory holidays that workers were entitled to and revised the Labor Standards Act for the worse, Labor Party Deputy Chairperson Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍) said.

"Two years after (Tsai) took office, labor rights have regressed by 30 years," Wang said.

At the press conference, the labor alliance reviewed Tsai's campaign promises, including reducing total annual work hours, reversing Taiwan's low-wage trend, and protecting laborers from excessive work.

Alliance member Chao Chien-hui (趙建輝) accused Tsai of failing to reduce overwork.

"While we try hard to improve labor conditions, we are faced with layers and layers of barbed-wire barricades," Chao said, referring to barricades put up to keep protesters, including labor activists, from getting close to the Legislative Yuan and other public buildings.

The alliance has initiated two referendums, one calling for an act governing national holidays and the other advocating the abolishment of the latest amendment to the Labor Standards Act that President Tsai promulgated on Jan. 31.

The act underwent two sets of revisions, one in December 2016 and the other in January 2018. The revisions passed earlier this year were considered to be more favorable to businesses than workers.

Under the newly revised act, employees can be asked to work 12 days in a row and work shifts with only eight hours of rest in between, but enterprises must first secure approval from related government agencies and their employees.

That compares with previous rules set in the first revision that prohibited employees from working more than six days in a row and required a period of at least 11 hours between shifts.

The new amendment also allows up to 54 hours of overtime per month, an increase from the current 46 hours, but caps it at 138 hours over a three-month period.

In response, the Ministry of Labor defended itself in a statement that the January revisions were based on the principles of safety and flexibility.

"The original intention (of the act) to protect the rights and interests of workers have not changed a bit," the statement said.

(By Wu Hsin-yun and Elizabeth Hsu)