DPP rams ‘five-day work week’ bill through committee

A controversial amendment to implement a five-day work week in Taiwan was pushed through a legislative committee on Wednesday despite strong opposition from labor groups and Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers.

The committee's approval of the draft amendment to the Labor Standards Act means it will go to inter-party negotiations before being reviewed by the full Legislature.

Labor groups protested the move outside the Legislative Yuan complex and threw eggs at the Legislature's front door, angered that the amendment would reduce the number of national holidays workers are entitled to by seven days.

Earlier in the day, a group of activists staged a protest outside President Tsai Ing-wen's (???) residence before she left for work.

They blasted the new bill, proposed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as harming the rights and benefits of workers.

Employers were more accepting of the amendment, even if they have not always supported some of the plan's overtime rules.

Both Lin Bo-fong (???), chairman of the Taiwan-based Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce, and Tsai Liang-sheng (???), secretary-general of the Chinese National Federation of Industries, said they agreed with making the national holiday system for workers consistent with that for civil servants.

The measure made it through the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on Wednesday morning when committee convener DPP Legislator Chen Ying (??) announced that the review of the bill was completed after the articles to be revised were quickly read out loud.

The review process took a mere 60 seconds, drawing harsh criticism from opposition KMT lawmakers, who are in the minority in the Legislature and outnumbered on the committee by an 11-4 margin.

KMT Caucus whip Chiang Chi-chen (???) blasted the "one minute" review as "shameful" and criticized the DPP for not having the courage to hold public hearings on the controversial bill, instead choosing to "bully" workers.

The KMT also denounced the DPP for harming workers' rights and taking advantage of "majority violence," Chiang said. "It is the darkest day in the history of Republic of China's workers," he said, using Taiwan's official name.

KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (???), also a caucus whip, said he will not recognize the review as valid.

The speedy approval of the controversial "five-day work week" bill proposed by the Executive Yuan, the top administration branch of Taiwan's government, came after President Tsai called for the measure to be expedited.

At a DPP policy coordination meeting on Oct. 3, she directed that the proposed five-day work week be put into practice by completing the necessary amendments by the end of this year.

Tsai doubles as the DPP's chairwoman.

Under the amendment, Taiwan will implement a 40-hour work week and more generous overtime rules were established for the two days off than under previous provisions.

If workers work on the "flexible" day off, they will be entitled to high overtime pay; if they work on the "compulsory" day off, they will get a matching day off sometime in the future.

But the DPP government-proposed amendment did not keep the number of national holidays at 19 as it had promised after taking power on May 20, and instead cut them to 12 as was the case for civil servants and many service businesses that were already on a five-day work week.

The Legislature passed an amendment in May 2015 guaranteeing a five-day work week for all workers in Taiwan for the first time, to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

The Enforcement Rules of the Labor Standards Act were then revised in December 2015 to cut them to 12 from the original 19 to compensate for the reduced working hours.

The new government, however, vowed to reinstate the seven extra days when it came into power amid protests by labor groups for more time off and benefits.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel