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Migrant workers demand days off, better wages in protest (update)
【Society】2014-02-09  18:14:37
Taipei, Feb. 9 (CNA) Some 20 Indonesian and Filipino workers gathered in Taipei on Sunday for a protest, demanding mandatory days off and equal salary to their Taiwanese peers.

The protest was organized to correspond with One Billion Rising, a global campaign that falls on Feb. 14 and uses dance to call for an end to violence against women, said Lennon Ying-dah Wong, director of the international department at the Taoyuan-based Serve the People Association.

Many foreign domestic helpers and caregivers in Taiwan are women who are being exploited at work, Wong explained, noting that these workers are still not covered by the Labor Standards Act.

This means that these workers are not entitled to the minimum monthly wage of NT$19,047 (US$626) in Taiwan. Most foreign domestic workers are being paid NT$15,840 per month.

Under current regulations, employers are also not required to provide domestic workers with mandatory days off each week.

Dressed in pink T-shirts, some of the workers held placards that read "Justice for All Migrant Workers" and "No to Modern Day Slavery", while others danced in the main lobby of the Taipei Railway Station to call attention to what they see as the plight of migrant workers.

The Sunday protest was jointly organized by migrant worker groups ATKI-Taiwan ( Asosiasi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia) and Migrante International-Taiwan Chapter.

Filipino domestic caregiver Maria Latosa, who has worked in Taiwan for eight years, told CNA she did not receive a day off from work during her first three years in Taiwan and had only sporadic breaks on some work days.

She now receives one to two days off per month, said the 40-year-old, who considers herself "lucky" among her peers.

"We want to take a break because every night there is not enough sleep," she said, pointing out that many migrant workers in Taiwan take care of seniors who have suffered from strokes and dementia, and the workers' jobs are physically and psychologically exhausting.

Lukman Nur Rohim, 33, who works in a factory in New Taipei, said migrant workers are often burdened with having to pay heavy employment agency fees, as well as being asked to perform additional work that was not listed in their contracts, and sometimes even have to endure abusive supervisors.

In response to the protest, Liu Chuan-ming, director of the Council of Labor Affairs Department of Labor Standards, said Sunday that his council drafted a Domestic Workers Protection Act and sent it to the Cabinet for review in 2012.

The draft act stipulates that foreign domestic workers and caregivers should be granted at least one day off per week, except in emergency situations when employers can ask workers to continue to work.

If employees are asked to work on their day off, employers will be required to pay them extra wages or give them additional days off afterwards.

But labor groups have objected to exceptions to the day-off rule, even if workers are compensated, because they see it as a loophole that many employers will exploit.

Wong said it is the government's responsibility to provide resources to ensure that caregivers can work on shifts.

There are currently over 489,000 foreign workers in Taiwan. More than 210,000 work as domestic helpers and caregivers, with close to 80 percent coming from Indonesia, according to official labor statistics.

(By Christie Chen)
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