Legislators call to crack down on labor brokers amid abuse claims

TAIPEI (The China Post) — With COVID-19-related restrictions since May barring prospective workers from entering Taiwan, local media have reported several cases of labor brokers who allegedly charged illegal fees for the transfer of migrant workers between employers.

The Ministry of Labor aims to crack down on such practices, which some international organizations call “slave labor” or “slave trade,” with new legislation and procedures, according to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators who denounced such labor rights abuses in a news conference in Taipei on Thursday.

DPP Legislator Michelle Lin (林楚茵) told local media that she had received multiple complaints about brokers charging migrant workers thousands to tens of thousands of New Taiwan dollars to process their transfer to new employers.

There are no statistics about their prevalence in Taiwan, according to Lin who lamented that workers usually pay for the additional fees out of concern for their job, thus preventing effective prosecution.

DPP Legislator Hung Sun-han (洪申翰) argued that some unscrupulous agents extort migrant workers by controlling access to official documents. They usually hide the practice from potential employers, Hung explained.

Contrary to all expectations, migrant workers should be given access to the needed forms — including employment licenses and documents to prove that they are not working anymore for their previous employers. Regretfully those official documents are currently unavailable for download by the workers themselves.

To this end, DPP Legislator Lai Pin-yu (賴品妤) rightly recommended simplifying migrant worker transfer procedures by creating a multilingual platform to inform them of their rights. The platform should include regulations and download links to the documents needed by migrant workers, the legislator said.

According to the “Employment Service Act” (就業服務法) and the “Standards for Fee-charging Items and Amounts of the Private Employment Services Institution” (私立就業服務機構收費項目及金額標準), agents can only charge NT$1,500 to NT$1,800 in service fees per worker per month.

Against this backdrop, the ministry is reportedly planning to implement next year a system that would make it easier for workers to access the required documents. Workers who have experienced extortion are invited to call the 1955 hotline to file a complaint.