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Indonesian migrant workers rally in Taipei for rights protection

05/19/2024 06:01 PM
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CNA photo May 19, 2024
CNA photo May 19, 2024

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) Around 30 Indonesian migrant workers gathered outside Indonesia's representative office in Taipei on Sunday to demand better protection of their rights and the abolition of the broker system.

During the rally held outside the entrance of the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Taipei (IETO), a group of Indonesians working in the caregiving and manufacturing sectors urged the IETO to put an end to the broker system and improve the office's services.

Holding signs with slogans such as "Stop Overcharging" and "Sunday Service Every Week," they shared experiences of what they described as poor treatment by brokers or the IETO.

"When I was in Indonesia, I signed a contract to take care of an elderly person [in Taiwan]. However, when I arrived in Taiwan, I was assigned to work on a farm," said Maesaroh, a migrant worker who has been in Taiwan for less than a year.

Unable to endure the back pain she felt from shoveling dirt from dawn to dusk every day, she requested the broker to let her change jobs.

"They threatened me, saying that if I switched to another employer, I would have to pay tens of millions of Indonesian rupiah as penalties [for violating the contract]," Maesaroh recalled, choking up, referring to an amount equal to tens of thousands of Taiwan dollars.

Indonesian migrant worker Maesaroh shares her experience of being threatened by her broker during a rally in Taipei on Sunday. CNA photo May 19, 2024
Indonesian migrant worker Maesaroh shares her experience of being threatened by her broker during a rally in Taipei on Sunday. CNA photo May 19, 2024

The broker system was legalized in 1992 to introduce overseas workers to employment opportunities in Taiwan and then manage the workers and help them process any necessary documents while in Taiwan.

Muchsin, an Indonesian factory worker who broke his leg in a work-related accident, felt the IETO has not been much better.

He recounted an incident in which a staff member from the IETO conducted a live broadcast on TikTok to share information about labor regulations.

"I asked him about the rights of migrant workers who fall ill and those who suffer from work-related injuries ... He became angry and blocked my account," Muchsin said, describing the move as "shameless."

"According to the [Indonesian] government's slogan 'Protect Indonesian migrant workers from head to toe,' they should protect and uphold my rights," he said.

Indonesian factory worker Muchsin recounts the work-related accident that resulted in him breaking his leg during a rally in Taipei on Sunday. CNA photo May 19, 2024
Indonesian factory worker Muchsin recounts the work-related accident that resulted in him breaking his leg during a rally in Taipei on Sunday. CNA photo May 19, 2024

The IETO should also increase the frequency of office services on Sundays -- the day of the week when most migrant workers can take their days off -- to more than just once a month, said Fajar, a caregiver and the president of the Indonesian workers solidarity organization Ganas Community, which organized the rally.

At the end of the rally, Iqbal Shoffan Shofwan, head of the IETO and Indonesia's representative to Taiwan, received a petition from the group after discussing their appeals with them.

He said the office will discuss those issues and see how some of their services can be improved.

"It is our responsibility to respond to all of the demands of our migrant workers," Iqbal said. "We should not ignore any demand that comes from our migrant workers."

(By Sunny Lai)

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Iqbal Shoffan Shofwan (center left), Indonesia's representative to Taiwan, receives a petition from Fajar (center right), the president of the Indonesian workers solidarity organization Ganas Community, during a rally in Taipei on Sunday. CNA photo May 19, 2024
Iqbal Shoffan Shofwan (center left), Indonesia's representative to Taiwan, receives a petition from Fajar (center right), the president of the Indonesian workers solidarity organization Ganas Community, during a rally in Taipei on Sunday. CNA photo May 19, 2024
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