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Migrant workers protest over illegal brokerage fees

2018/12/16 19:41:22

Taipei, Dec. 16 (CNA) Several dozen migrant workers in Taiwan staged a protest Sunday demanding that the Ministry of Labor (MOL) clamp down on brokers who illegally charge workers recruitment fees to get new contracts.

"I am actually afraid to speak my story, but I have to. Because I hope that the Taiwan government can face the problem squarely," a man from Indonesia who gave his name as Andy said at the protest outside the MOL office.

According to Andy, before his first three-year contract expired, he was told by his broker he would have to pay NT$75,000 (US$2,430) to get a new job or risk being sent back to Indonesia if he becomes unemployed-- meaning that he would have to pay another placement fee payment to come back to work.

Andy said he had no choice but to borrow money from his friends to pay the broker the NT$75,000, but it turned out that the contract he got was fraudulent.

"I felt it was outrageous. The broker had fleeced me. I spent NT$75,000 but got an illegal job," Andy said. "I lodged a complaint with the local labor authority, but it was not accepted. The officials said that I did not present evidence."

The amount Andy's broker charged was more than three times higher than Taiwan's minimum monthly wage, which is what most migrant factory workers earn.

It is commonplace for brokers in Taiwan to charge the fee, known by migrant workers as "job-buying fees" as their brokers call it, especially following the 2016 amendment to the Employment Service Act, said Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮), a member of the Taiwan International Workers' Association, which organized the protest.

The amendment was hailed at the time because it abolished the requirement that foreign workers must leave Taiwan for one day after three years of employment in order to be eligible to re-enter to renew their contracts or begin work on a new contract. It also relieved migrant workers from another placement fee payment, Chen said.

Due to the lack of a job-matching mechanism operated by the government, migrant workers can only turn to brokers when they need to secure a new contract because most job search channels are dominated by brokers, Chen said.

In addition, the excessive placement fees charged to migrant workers coming to Taiwan remains a serious issue, despite the fact that the Employment Service Act allows brokers to charge monthly service fees only and not placement fees.

Nguyen Viet Ca, a participant in the protest, said that the average placement fee charged to a Vietnamese migrant worker is between US$5,000 and US$7,000.

"The three-year contract I got to work here cost me US$6,500. I have to work for one-and-a-half years to pay it off," said Nguyen. "It's a problem many migrant workers have encountered. I hope our voices can be heard by the government."

The protesters reiterated the long-standing demand that the Taiwan government establish a direct hiring system between nations to replace the private brokerage system.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)