Labor groups to protest against amended work bill on Oct. 25

Several labor groups said Wednesday they will take to the streets on Oct. 25 to protest a controversial bill on the five-day work week that they said should be returned to a legislative committee for review.

Groups including Solidarity, the Tainan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU) and the Taiwan Higher Education Union (THEU) said they will urge workers to reject the amendment, which would reduce the number of national holidays workers are entitled to by seven days.

TCTU Secretary-General Huang Yu-te (???) said they want the bill to be brought back to committee for a review and for public hearings involving experts from different fields to be held on the measure.

They also insist that any new legislation on the issue includes at least 123 days off a year (including weekends) for workers, meaning that the seven national holidays must not be compromised, Huang said.

Huang expects 2,000 people from over 100 labor groups to take part in the protest slated for Tuesday afternoon, which will start from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's headquarters, then circle the Taipei Railway Station before concluding outside the Legislative Yuan.

THEU Researcher Chen Po-chen (???) said the protest is necessary for workers to defend their rights, and he criticized the Legislative Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee's approval of the bill on Oct. 5 as not transparent.

"Workers can't take it anymore," he said.

The DPP-dominated committee pushed through the amendment to the Labor Standards Act on Oct. 5 after a review process that took all of 60 seconds, a move that angered Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers and labor groups.

In May 2015 when the KMT still had a majority in the Legislature, lawmakers passed an amendment guaranteeing a five-day work week for all workers in Taiwan for the first time, to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

The law had previously mandated no more than 84 hours of work over a two-week period.

The Enforcement Rules of the Labor Standards Act were then revised in December 2015 to cut the number of national holidays to 12 from the original 19 to partly offset the reduction in working hours.

After the new DPP government took office on May 20 this year, however, it vowed to reinstate the seven holidays amid protests by labor groups for more time off and benefits.

Following several twists and turns in policy, the government opted for an amendment under which Taiwan would implement a 40-hour work week with more generous overtime rules for the two days off than under previous provisions.

The amendment would designate one of the two days off as a "flexible" day off and the other a "compulsory" day off.

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 amendment proposed by the DPP government did not keep the number of national holidays at 19 as it had promised, instead keeping them at 12 -- the number used for civil servants and many service businesses or factories already on a five-day work week.

Labor groups argue they should still get 19 national holidays in addition to the proposed five-day work week, while business associations argue the extra vacation time would be too big a cost for them to bear.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel