Angry CLA chief promises to examine foreign labor policy

The China Post staff

Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Chairwoman Chen Chu yesterday vowed to thoroughly examine foreign labor policy after she had been barred from attending a labor conference in Thailand.

“We will make some adjustments (in foreign labor policy) really soon,” Chen told reporters. “The countries that are friendly to us can retain the status quo.” She said the policy review was prompted by Bangkok’s denial of her request to participate in a non-political meeting.

The CLA is reportedly considering a number of punitive measures such as cutting the quota of Thai workers, tightening up the evaluation criteria and freezing issuance of visas to Thai workers. Asked to comment on reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would suspend issuing visas to Thai workers starting tomorrow, Chen simply replied that she would support the move. The CLA will not rule out the possibility of admitting Thai workers should the Bangkok government fail to provide a reasonable explanation or apologize for blocking Chen from the conference, according to media reports. The controversy erupted when the Thai government reportedly refused to grant Chen an entry visa under pressure from Beijing.

Thai officials later announced that the bilateral labor conference in Phuket would be postponed because of Taiwan’s decision to send a high-ranking official, an explanation sternly refuted by the CLA. In a last-ditch effort to settle the dispute, Bangkok decided to issue Chen a tourist visa on condition that she would not go to the conference. But Chen rejected the offer, calling it an unfriendly treatment by the Thai government because she was formally invited to the Phuket meeting. According to the CLA, an estimated 120,000 Thai workers are employed in Taiwan, making US$900 million in foreign exchange a year for Thailand. A labor conference between Taiwan and Indonesia will be canceled amid disputes between the two sides over major labor administrative issues, such as the high labor brokerage fees, rising absconding rate of Indonesian workers and forgery of labor documents, the United Evening News said. The afternoon paper added the CLA could lift its ban on Indonesian workers as soon as mid-October following a recent successful negotiation with Indonesian labor officials in Taipei. Indonesian government has reportedly agreed to lower the NT$3,000 brokerage fees by 20 percent.