Business groups want to cut 7 public holidays for workers

Seven major business groups said Monday they will terminate labor negotiations if the government fails to honor an agreement to cut the number of officially designated holidays per year from 19 to 12, as part of the government's plans to implement a universal 40-hour work week.

Meanwhile, some 20 labor rights activists stormed into the head office of the Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI) where the seven business associations were holding a press conference and issued their statement.

The controversy came after the Ministry of Labor (MOL) announced on June 20 the restoration of the seven public holidays that the previous government had planned to cut from laborers' yearly holiday schedule.

The Executive Yuan on June 21 officially annulled an amendment to the Enforcement Rules of the Labor Standards Act intending to take away the seven public holidays from laborers.

The restoration of the holidays comes just about a week after labor groups lodged a protest against the loss of the seven public holidays in front of the Executive Yuan building.

The MOL held 35 hearings last year and after which labor and management representatives reached an agreement to cut weekly working hours from 84 hours over a two-week period to 40 hours per week, paving the way for the law amendment's implementation starting from Jan. 1, according to CNFI Chairman Hsu Sheng-hsiung.

The amendment was designed to guarantee workers two days off per week and reduce legal work hours from 84 every two weeks to 40 per week.

Despite the overall increase in total days off, there were terms and conditions attached to the amendment--lifting the monthly limit for overtime from 46 to 54 hours and axing seven public holidays--to protect the workers' right to paid holidays and offset business operating costs, Hsu noted.

After deducting the seven national holidays, workers will receive six more days off than under the current system, Hsu added.

However, the law amendment was annulled as it had violated the previous agreement, he said.

According to a MOL report, South Koreans worked an average of 2,124 hours, while Singapore and Hong Kong workers clocked up 2,392 hours and Taiwanese worked 2,134 hours in 2010. If the seven national holidays were cut, Taiwanese would work an average of 2,086 hours, still fewer than their counterparts in South Korea and Singapore, Hsu said.

Hsu urged the government to stick to the agreement reached on the matter and work to push the law amendment through the Legislative Yuan.

Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce Chairman Lin Por-fong also called on the government to fulfill the agreement.

Lin had said that for every additional seven days off for workers, wage costs will increase by 2 percent for companies.