Hsieh Kuo-lien, The China Post
Representatives of foreign workers in Taiwan yesterday expressed vehement opposition to plans by labor officials to deduct fees for food and accommodations from foreign workers’ wages. The group of representatives consisting of Catholic chaplains and foreign workers met with officials from the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) yesterday, in an attempt to halt the CLA proposal. The CLA has spelled out a plan that would allow the deduction of food and accommodation fees, at NT$2,500 to NT$4,000 per worker, from the minimum monthly wage of NT$15,840. But many foreign laborers disagree with the new policy, saying that they have already paid huge commissions to brokers both in their home countries and in Taiwan, with some of them even taking loans to pay the commission. The deduction, which reduces present salaries by 15 to 25 percent, could bring a heavy financial burden to those who have yet to pay loans granted by brokers. Chen Shen-hsien, director of the CLA’s Department of Working Conditions, told The China Post that the plan of the deduction was worked out in accordance with the domestic labor laws. “The laws cause no problem. The real problem is when should we implement the new policy,” Chen said. The official promised that the new policy would go into effect after they cut the fees for brokers. He went on to say that “the reasonable fee for a broker will be written down in the new contracts.
As a result, the foreign workers will know how much they should pay the brokerage.” Chen anticipated that the countries that have been sending laborers to Taiwan would cooperate with the Taiwan government to prevent a broker from obtaining excessive commission, and bar employers from taking kick-backs from a broker. Father Edwin Corros, who met with the CLA officials on behalf of the foreign workers, has a different interpretation of the domestic labor laws. The father, who has carried out research into local labor laws, believes that the deduction of food and accommodation from a worker’s salary is “not allowed under the law”. The father said that CLA officials claimed Taiwan has been paying higher salaries compared to Singapore and Hong Kong, but Corros noted that those working in Taiwan have to pay higher commissions to brokers, too. Asked if they would take further steps to show their objection to the deduction, Corros said they would continue the negotiations with CLA officials hoping for a halt of the new policy. Please see WORKERS on page
In response to vehement opposition to the deduction, the CLA Vice Chairman Koa Chi-jen told reporters that “we will not alter the contracts that have been signed (by the workers and their employers).” “However, new contracts to be signed in the future will be inked under the new policy,” implying that the council has decided to implement the new policy in the near future. As to the rights of foreign workers in Taiwan, Koa told reporters he is aware that some brokers have demanded excessive fees from workers, while some Taiwan employers have also failed to take proper care of their employees. “That causes human rights problems. We realize there are lots of relevant problems and we are going to make the punishment for the brokers and employers more clear,” the vice chairman said. Koa pledges to severely punish those who infringe on the foreign workers’ rights.