Trade unions and civil society in Taiwan are preparing to mitigate the effects of a recent amendment to the country’s labour legislation, which they describe as the worst in history.
On Wednesday 10 January, the Legislative Yuan in Taiwan approved changes to the Labour Standards Act that will give employers the power to force workers to work 12 days in a row, with a break of only 8 hours between shifts. Currently workers can be made to work 7 days in a row with a mandatory break of 11 hours. The amendment is set to take effect on 1 March.
Mr Chueh An Chuang, who is President of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Taiwan Petroleum Workers Union (TPWU), as well as President of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU), said:
“We trade unions must step forward to tackle the problems and impacts of adoption the new regulations. Moreover, we need to have more negotiations with the government about future amendments to our Labour Standards Act.”
Members of Taiwan’s Human Rights Committee are now calling for an investigation into the amendment, which they believe may have violated the International Bill of Human Rights enacted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1976.
President Chuang added:
“The draft amendment is strongly in favour of employers but not workers. I’m very worried about the problem of overworking in Taiwan, which will only get worse when this new Act is implemented.”
IndustriALL’s General Secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“The new amendment to the Labour Standards Act is an insult to workers in Taiwan. Driving workers into the ground will not lead to greater prosperity but to a sick workforce operating under conditions that are entirely unsustainable. We support our affiliate in its efforts to fight this law.”
Since the Taiwan government proposed the controversial amendments in October last year, the TCTU has joined other trade unions, social activists, student groups and academics to form the May Day Action Alliance in protest against the changes.
As lawmakers started the second and third deliberation meetings regarding the amendments on 8 January, nearly 300 members of the May Day Action Alliance camped overnight outside the Legislative Yuan.
A march on 23 December 2017, attracted near 10,000 people and led to the arrest of 10 union leaders and students after protesters blocked the key intersection near Taipei main railway station.