TAIPEI (CNA) – Some 200 labor activists marched in the annual Autumn Struggle demonstration Sunday, throwing piggy banks in anger at the Presidential Office and blasting the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration for having leaned toward capitalists at the expense of laborers.
Tying themselves with one long iron chain, the protesters denounced Tsai and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for breaking their election promises to protect workers’ rights and interests.
They hurled at the office building hundreds of piggy banks, which the DPP distributed to supporters before the 2016 presidential election to raise funds.
Autumn Struggle is a labor demonstration that began in 1993 and has since then been held every year under different labor rights-related themes. It has served as a rallying call for activist groups to express their outrage at controversial government policies.
Over the past two decades, issues ranging from labor rights, education, gender equality, environmental protection to immigrants and forced eviction from planned construction sites had been raised during the annual protest rally.
This year, the Autumn Struggle drew more than 60 civil groups from across the nation with calls for people to fight for their survival while, they accused, the “far-right government has been intensifying suppression.” Before their march, the activists rallied at the National Taiwan University Alumni Association office a few blocks away from the Presidential Office. There, they voiced strong dissatisfaction with the government policies on labor, land, education and immigrant/migrant workers.
The activists first expressed opposition to the government’s move to ease work hour rules to grant employers the flexibility in imposing overtime work. They put forth several petitions, including one for a special law regulating occupational hazard insurance.
They also petitioned for migrant workers to be allowed to change employers freely, and for legislating a law that protects domestic caregivers.
They demanded that the migrant labor brokerage system be abolished, and listed companies on Taiwan Stock Exchange be obliged to have labor-representatives on the board of directors and supervisors.
The government’s response, however, was simply bland. For example, Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) said that improvement is being made in regard to labor conditions and the industrial development environment in the country.
“In the future, the government will continue its efforts to let people enjoy a better life,” said Lin.
The Ministry of Labor promised to address the petitions actively. On opposition to the government’s proposed amendment bill regarding work hour rules, however, it said merely that the government has added flexibility to its unchanged stance that labor rights and interests will be protected.
By Wu Hsin-yun, Sophia Yeh and Elizabeth Hsu