Migrant workers in Taiwan rally for better labor rights

Taipei-Braving chilly weather and pouring rain, over 1,000 migrant workers and their supporters took to the streets in downtown Taipei on Sunday to call for improved labor rights.

The demonstration, organized by the Taipei-based Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), began in front of the Ministry of Labor (MOL) at 1:30 p.m., under the theme "Recognizing Non-Citizens."

The protesters marched from the labor ministry to the Presidential Office on Ketagalan Boulevard, calling on the Taiwan government to better protect their labor rights and to allow them to participate in policymaking for migrant workers.

Addressing the crowd in front of the ministry before the march began, a Philippine migrant worker who asked not to be named said Taiwan should recognize the civil rights of non-citizens, including migrant workers.

"We, like all Taiwanese citizens, live here, work here and we spend money here, she said. Why can't we have the right to make decisions (on migrant worker policies)?"

She also said the government should abolish the existing migrant worker employment broker system, which has been criticized as exploitative.

Another demonstrator, Filipino caretaker Marisa Dumayag, told CNA that she was marching in support of the call to eliminate the broker system and to include migrant caretakers in Taiwan's Labor Standards Act.

"We really don't want the broker system," she said, adding that she hopes the Taiwan government will hear the voices of migrant workers.

Jonathan Parhusip, an Indonesian student from National Chiao Tung University who also joined the rally, told CNA that migrant workers need to be included in the discussions on their rights.

"They are the people who know better about their situation. They are the people who know better about what they want and what they need," he said.

At the rally, the organizers announced the results of a mock referendum that was held across Taiwan in September last year on three key issues concerning migrant workers.

The three issues were whether migrant domestic caregivers should be protected under the Labor Standards Act; whether migrant workers should be able to change employers freely; and whether the government should get rid of the private employment brokerage system.

Over 12,000 votes were cast in the mock referendum, which was held Sept. 17 to Dec. 10 at 15 designated voting locations across Taiwan, with an overwhelming majority voting in the affirmative on the three questions.

The final tallies were 12,744, 12,705 and 12,684 votes in support of the three proposed measures, respectively, as opposed to 15, 83 and 95 votes against them, the organizers said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel