Response to planned work rule revisions mixed

In this Oct. 26, 2017 file photo, General Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lai Cheng-I reacts during a press event organized for the release of the group's proposal on overtime work. The government's planned revisions to controversial five-day workweek rules that it enacted late last year have received mixed responses, but both business groups and labor unions objected to a proposed change on overtime hours (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – The government’s planned revisions to controversial five-day workweek rules that it enacted late last year have received mixed responses, but both business groups and labor unions objected to a proposed change in overtime hours.

The revisions, discussed at a meeting between Cabinet officials and ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers on Monday, were welcomed with cautious optimism by foreign business organizations, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham Taipei).

The new proposal will change the current monthly cap on overtime of 46 hours to 138 hours over three months but allow for up to 54 hours in a single month.

Another proposal will allow employers to lower the rest period between shifts for employees, currently set at a minimum of 11 hours, to as few as eight hours if they receive the consent of their workers or labor unions.

AmCham recognized such revisions as “more flexible” for both employees and employers than the current rules, and expressed the hope that they will be enacted as soon as possible after being discussed by the governmental and civil sectors.

The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Taipei, meanwhile, said it will need time to study the revisions and collect the opinions of its members. It noted, however, that most members appear to be optimistic about the changes.

The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan also voiced optimism but cautioned that it will still look closely at the final changes made after they clear the floor of the Legislature.

Domestic labor and business groups reacted far less favorably, especially on the overtime provision.

Several labor unions, including the Taiwan Higher Education Union, are planning to stage a protest in response to the proposed revisions outside the Executive Yuan on Thursday when the government’s administrative branch is expected to approve them before sending them on to the Legislature.

Taiwan Labor Front Secretary-General Sun Yu-lien (孫友聯) blasted the planned relaxation of overtime restrictions to up to 54 hours a month and 138 hours over three months as “confusing cause and effect,” saying it’s low wages that drive workers to work overtime so they can earn more.

The so-called “overtime account,” based on which the 138-hour formula was set, is basically an idea that meets only the needs of employers, Sun criticized.

Local industrial and commercial organizations felt the formula was also problematic but for a different reason than labor groups.

General Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lai Cheng-i (賴正鎰) said his group’s proposal was a 360-hour overtime account over six months so that workers in the commercial and services sectors have the chance to work more during peak seasons and rest in low seasons.

The government’s 138 hours over three months are “fewer” than expected, Lai said. 

By Chu Tze-wei, Yu Hsiao-han, Huang Ya-chuan and Elizabeth Hsu