5 arrested for abusing immigrant workers

The China Post news staff

The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) yesterday arrested employers from a Pingtung County company for violating labor laws by hiring 19 Vietnamese workers and subjecting them to abusive behavior, such as withholding their passports, forcing them to work overtime, and paying way less than the minimum wage. After more than two months of gathering evidence, the CIB discovered that the workers were forced to work overtime of up to 8.5 hours per day, with the total overtime pay owed to them almost reaching NT$5 million. The CIB has impounded labor payrolls, time sheets, countless documents on the illegal workers and other incriminating information. The suspects, a 53-year-old man surnamed Shi, his 48-year-old younger brother, 55-year-old sister and 56-year-old assistant manager were charged with violation of the Human Trafficking Control Act and transferred to the Pingtung District Prosecutors Office for investigation. Police said between 2008 and now, the company acquired the 19 workers through two agencies. Last year, many of the employed had written to the Hsinchu Presbyterian Church for help, accusing the company of forcing them to work many hours of overtime, improper deductions of their salaries and forbidding holidays or leaves of absence, but received no real help.

Eight workers escaped from the company last August, appealing to social welfare groups for help and found temporarily refuge while another 11 workers remained in the company. In January, the CIB received a report regarding the abuse, and in cooperation with the Kaohsiung City Police Department, started collecting evidence regarding the case. Police discovered that each worker still owed the Vietnamese recruiting agency fees ranging from US$6,000 to US$8000; the Vietnamese citizens also complained to police regarding the abysmal conditions of the company’s housing, and being given food that gave them diarrhea. Investigation revealed that the workers had few holidays, were forced in overtime that paid only NT$60 an hour, lower than the amount stipulated by the labor standards act.