200 Filipino workers file suit alleging exploitation


MANILA–A group of more than 200 Filipino workers have filed a class-action complaint with Taiwan prosecutors, alleging exploitation by their labor brokers, an official from the Philippines Justice Department said yesterday. The workers, hired at the Hsinchu Science Park in northern Taiwan, took the step late last year after failing to receive any wages for months, the official said on condition of anonymity. Their wages were allegedly withheld to pay off high-interest loans they owed their labor brokers, the official said, without giving further details. He warned that if the allegations are proven, they will constitute human trafficking and could affect labor exports to Taiwan.

A labor broker, meanwhile, said there is a long history of Filipino workers being exploited by brokers charging high-interest loans, but added that most workers choose to endure the abuse in silence.

A recent labor fraud case involving Taiwanese diplomat Jacqueline Liu in the United States could encourage workers to fight for their rights, he said, predicting that more workers are likely to follow suit if the 200-plus workers succeed in getting compensation. In order to work in Taiwan, a Filipino needs to spend 100,000 Philippine pesos (US$2,340) on average, according to Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, which represents Philippines’ interests in Taiwan in the absence of official ties.

Many people who cannot afford these expenses turn to their brokers for loans, he explained.