Filipino migrant workers accuse HTC of rights violations (update)

Taipei, More than 60 Filipino migrant workers on Sunday protested in Taipei to accuse Taiwan-based HTC Corp. of a series of unjust treatment and violation of their rights.

Speaking on behalf of the protestors, Gilda Banugan, chairperson of Migrante International's Taiwan Chapter, condemned HTC, an internationally-renowned smartphone and VR products maker, of standing "at the forefront in lying, deceiving, and violating the labor rights of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)."

The series of labor rights violations, according to Banugan, began right after the merger of HTC's smartphone department with Google in 2017, when HTC's management informed all its Filipino workers that they would be terminated from their jobs.

With the help of Taoyuan-based Serve the People Association (SPA), which filed for labor dispute mediation on behalf of the Filipinos, the mass layoff was temporarily stopped, Banugan said.

Lennon Wong (???), director of SPA's Service Center and Shelter for Migrant Workers, told reporters that during labor dispute mediation, HTC lawyers claimed that they were not aware of a lay-off plan.

However, the company has already applied for massive layoff with local labor authorities and has asked many of these migrant workers, not just Filipinos, to sign a voluntary resignation letter to break their contract, in an attempt to dodge responsibility to pay severance compensation to the workers, Wong said.

More than 240 Filipino workers have asked for SPA's assistance to negotiate with HTC, according to Wong.

Migrante's Banugan called on the company to recognize and respect the rights and welfare of the OFWs through dialogue, instead of trying to escape from the responsibility they have toward their workers.

"Migrant Filipino workers are not garbage that can be easily disposed of by HTC. As a leading company in Taiwan, they must be the forerunner in championing the interests of their workers and not violating them," she noted.

Aside from the potential massive layoff, Wong also noted that many migrant workers found that HTC did not pay workers' benefits as stipulated by their contracts and instead made some deductions from the salaries of the OFWs.

The contracts these Filipino workers signed before working for HTC guaranteed that all food and accommodation expenses should be paid by the employer, HTC, but in fact money is deducted from workers at NT$2,500 per month to pay for such costs, Wong said.

To dodge its responsibility, Wong said HTC and the relevant agencies had requested these workers sign an addendum to the contract to void the guarantee of free food and accommodation expenses and roundtrip tickets to their home country.

Surprisingly, many Filipino workers later found that the signatures and fingerprints on the addendum do not belong to them, Wong said, accusing HTC and the relevant employment agencies of committing forgery.

The protesters on Sunday called on Taiwan's labor affairs authorities to immediately investigate these alleged violations and help the OFWs get justice.

Sunday's protest was staged outside Google's Taiwan office as the protesters believe the U.S. tech giant should take some responsibility following its merger with HTC's smartphone department last year.

When reached for comment, Google told CNA it had no comment. Meanwhile, HTC said as a listed company all of its operations are conducted in accordance with related laws. The company denied it is currently in talks with its foreign workers to terminate their contracts.

HTC also noted that it deducts NT$2,500 per month from the salaries of foreign workers to cover food and accommodation costs based on an addendum to the contract they sign, a HTC public relations official told CNA in an email.

If employees question the authenticity of the signature and fingerprint on the addendum they signed, HTC said they could file a legal suit to resolve the matter.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel