6,000 workers march for improved rights on Labor Day (update) - Focus Taiwan

6,000 workers march for improved rights on Labor Day (update)

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) About 6,000 workers took to the streets of Taiwan's capital Wednesday in an annual Labor Day march, calling for more holidays and paid leave, as well as better labor rights protections.

The marchers gathered on Taipei's Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office at 12:30 p.m. before setting off at 2 p.m., on a route that took them past Taipei Main Station and to the Legislative Yuan.

During the march, banners were carried demanding more public holidays, increasing maternity leave from 56 days to 90 days, and the enactment of legislation to enable employees to take unpaid leave for the long-term care of family members.

The marchers also called for the abolition of Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Act, which exempts certain employees from work-hour restrictions, and also a 10 percent rise in salaries.

Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions president Chuang Chueh-an (莊爵安), one of the main organizers of the march, said that working conditions in Taiwan have declined over the past 20 years.

In 2017, the average number of work hours a year per employee was 2,035 in Taiwan, compared with an average of 1,744 hours in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries, indicating that employees in Taiwan worked 36 days per year more than the OECD average, Chuang said.

The average annual salary in Taiwan is only US$26,300, with over 30 percent of employees receiving a monthly salary below NT$30,000 (US$971), Chuang said, contending that low salaries also impact retirees' income, providing inadequate security in old age.

Despite the longer work hours, the basic monthly wage in Taiwan was still lower than the OECD average, an indication that corporate employers in Taiwan are unwilling to share business profits with their employees, Chuang said.

In response, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said the demands for extended maternity leave and for unpaid leave for the long-term care of family members involved issues of manpower allocation for the employer and the question of whether workers would be able to sustain themselves financially during unpaid leave.

The demands, therefore, need to be considered carefully so as to protect the rights of employers and employees, the ministry said.

Regarding the demand for abolition of the law that exempts certain employees from work-hour restrictions, the MOL said while there are times when "designated responsibility" has to be assigned to certain workers, employers in general should refer to the Labor Standards Act and reach an agreement with their employees.

However, such agreements should not jeopardize the health or benefits of the employee, and the paperwork should be submitted to a local labor office for review before the agreement takes effect, the MOL said.

It was the 11th consecutive year that the Labor Day march was held in Taipei.

(By Wu Hsin-yu and William Yen)


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