NGOs protest use of migrants as temporary workers

06/30/2020 11:33 AM
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Taipei, June 30 (CNA) Migrant rights groups rallied in downtown Taipei on Monday to protest a government decision that would allow the use of migrant workers as temporary workers in a Changhua industrial park to ease labor shortages, citing occupational safety concerns.

According to the minutes of a Ministry of Labor (MOL) meeting on Feb. 25, the green light was given to a trial plan proposed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs to import migrant workers to be used as temporary workers in the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park.

These temporary workers, known as dispatched workers in Taiwan, would be managed by a third-party nonprofit group and "dispatched" out to factories in the park during peak production season or when they have to fill urgent orders.

A total of 50 migrant workers will be allowed to be brought into Taiwan for this purpose, the MOL decided.

The Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), a coalition of some 10 migrant rights groups, has objected to the idea, however, and it shouted slogans and held banners during its rally outside the Labor Ministry to voice its opposition.

Weng Chien-wen (翁倩文) of the Hope Workers' Center said data from the MOL showed that many factories in the industrial park follow strict production procedures because they handle toxic gases or organic solvents.

In such cases, using migrant workers will increase the risk of occupational disasters because they will need to re-adapt to a new and dangerous labor environment every three to six months without having any experience in the job they are assigned to, Weng argued.

Normally, migrant workers in Taiwan, whether working in a household or factory setting, work for one employer or company under the same or similar working conditions every working day for the duration of their contract.

The migrant rights groups also said labor shortages are a longstanding problem because of long working hours and low pay, unstable work days, and dangerous working environments that increase the risk of occupational disasters.

Rather than allowing factories to profit from cheap labor, the government should focus on improving labor conditions to bolster full-time employment, the migrant rights groups contended.

Weng Chien-wen (翁倩文, front) of the Hope Workers
Weng Chien-wen (翁倩文, front) of the Hope Workers' Center

The MOL argued that relevant labor laws and regulations, such as the Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, and Act of Gender Equality in Employment, will be applied to the 50 migrant workers, who will have three-year contracts with the nonprofit organizations that dispatch them out.

Nonprofit groups that import workers will be responsible for the workers and for taking out health and labor insurance on their behalf, the MOL said.

According to the MOL statistics as of the end of May, there are 707,308 migrant workers in Taiwan, including 274,269 from Indonesia, 219,716 from Vietnam, 156,014 from the Philippines, and 57,843 from Thailand.

(By Wu Hsin-yun and William Yen)

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