Labor groups protest stimulus package, call for wider-ranging reforms

05/01/2020 08:31 PM
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Taipei, May 1 (CNA) Taiwanese labor activists complained on Friday that working people had been left behind by government economic stimulus plans and issued a list of demands for improvements to the country's labor situation.

A coalition of trade unions that had canceled an annual march commemorating International Workers Day in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, made its demands at a smaller-scale press conference that took place on Taipei's Ketagalan Boulevard.

Although Taiwan has so far been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers in affected industries are still facing unpaid furlough, said Confederation of Taipei Trade Unions President Cheng Ya-hui (鄭雅慧).

Labor groups, Cheng continued, "have had to push the government every step of the way" to secure stimulus funding, while the government's industry-by-industry approach has resulted in waste.

Meanwhile, the group Labor Day 51 issued a list of four demands to improve labor conditions, beginning with a call to raise the minimum wage and remedy "nearly 20 years" of stagnation.

In terms of workplace protection, the government should make no further revisions to the working hour provisions in the Labor Standards Act and should quickly pass legislation on disaster prevention leave and employment injury insurance, the group said.

For non-traditional workers, such as those in the growing gig economy, the government should guarantee the same seven annual days of paid family care leave that it provides to civil servants, the group said.

Finally, it called for lowering the barriers for forming labor unions and for strengthening enforcement against unfair labor practices.

Chuang Chueh-an (莊爵安), president of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, said stimulus benefits available to workers -- primarily low-interest loans and cash payments for low earners -- should be increased and made more accessible.

Even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, Taiwan's long-term issues of overwork and low pay will remain, Chuang went on, adding that he hopes President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will devote the remainder of her term to building an effective social safety net for working people.

The Ministry of Labor said meanwhile that it will study the protesters' demands, while noting that it is already taking action on several of their proposals.

These include a draft bill to amend the Minimum Wage Act, which is currently being reviewed by the Executive Yuan, as well as planned legislation on employment injury insurance, the ministry said.

(By Wu Hsin-yun and Matthew Mazzetta)

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