Here’s what to do if migrant workers sustain occupational injuries in Taiwan

According to a report compiled by the Control Yuan, migrant workers sustain twice as much occupational injuries as domestic laborers. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Earlier last week, three deaths and two injuries were the result of the MRT Sanying Line (捷運三鶯線工程) construction accident, among which one of the deceased and another injured worker were Thai migrants.

Migrant workers often seek employment in Taiwan’s manufacturing and construction industries, and it is not uncommon to hear of occupational injuries sustained during work.

A report issued by the Control Yuan in 2020 pointed out that the rate of occupational injuries sustained by thousands of migrant workers is almost twice that of domestic workers.

Although migrant workers who work in manufacturing or industrial industries are protected by the “Labor Standards Act” (勞動基準法), and their rights and interests such as compensation after occupational disasters are the same as those of the domestic laborers, they are still more susceptible to facing difficulties when exercising their rights.

In response to the recent MRT Sanying Line project accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 勞動部職安署) of the Ministry of Labor (MOL, 勞動部) told 4-Way Voice and The China Post that they have already launched an investigation, adding that if they discover the contractor had violated any laws or made any mistakes, the case would be handed over to the district prosecution office.

The OSHA emphasized that both migrant workers and domestic workers are protected under the “Labor Standards Act” and the “Act for Protecting Worker of Occupational Accidents” (職業災害勞工保護法).

In case of occupational disasters, the right to receive compensation is the same for migrant workers in Taiwan. If they die as a result of occupational accidents, they can get up to 5 months of funeral subsidies and 40 months of compensation according to the law.

Migrant workers or their families can also file lawsuits against employers who have violated certain regulations which resulted in the accident for more compensation, and the MOL will also supervise the case to make sure the amount of compensation is not lower than the provisions required under the Labor Standards Act.

In addition, if the employment contract expires or the residence permit expires during the post-disaster injury or litigation period, the National Immigration Agency (NIA, 移民署) explained that the injured can apply for a resident visa for “occupational disaster” from the Bureau of Consular Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, 外交部) with relevant supporting documents, and then apply for an alien resident certificate from the branch offices of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

If there is a dispute with the employer in the country in which the proceedings are still underway, migrant workers may apply to the NIA for an extended period of residency before or when the previous resident visa or permit expires, in accordance with the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法).

In order to prevent foreigners from staying in Taiwan for extended periods of time by means of litigation, the NIA will also grant an extension until the court judgment is announced of the first instance of the case according to individuals’ needs.

If the settlement is still not completed then, they can ask another agent ad litem to assist in relevant litigation matters.

Although the Labor Standards Act is applicable to both migrant and domestic workers, their situations after suffering from an occupational accident are still vastly different, as most who seek work in Taiwan carry heavy financial burdens when they arrive.

The Control Yuan recently released a report stating that migrant workers who are injured in occupational accidents are often afraid to seek medical treatment for fear of being repatriated.

They may also hold back as they worry they may be forced back to their home countries by unscrupulous labor broker agencies and employers during the time they receive medical treatment or dispute with employers over compensation for the injuries sustained.

On the other hand, the MOL has no relevant statistical data on this subject, but a spokesperson remarked that there are termination verification hotlines, the 1955 hotline, airport service stations, and more, where migrant workers can seek help and confirm their employment status.

However, none of the above are direct countermeasures to the fact that migrant workers sustain two times more occupational injures than the average domestic laborer.