Taiwan's first domestic workers' union forms

First National Home-based Workers Union Meeting was held in New Taipei on Sunday

Attendee of NHW meeting. (Taiwan Observer image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The National Home-based Workers' Union (NHW), a new union for live-in caregivers, held it's first meeting on Sunday (Oct. 29) in New Taipei's Yingge District, according to the Taiwan Observer

Holding in what organizers believe is the first meeting of a union organized to advocate for the rights of domestic workers in Taiwan's history, the NHW introduced the new organization to prospective members and voted for its board members.

According to the union's founders they feel caregivers are treated as second-class citizens and the Taiwanese government needs to address their needs. Lennon, Ying-Dah, Wong, director of the Server Center and Shelter for migrant workers told the Taiwan Observer that the conditions endured by some home-based workers are like that of a slave, with some "having absolutely no days off in a year."

Wong added that migrant workers are often forced to "stay in a terrible job, sometimes in abusive situations, because brokerage firms will send them home if they complain." 

Although migrant workers (primarily employed in factories) received a pay increase as when the monthly minimum wage was increased from NT$21,009 to NT$22,000 (US$725) in accordance with the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), domestic caregivers were excluded from this raise and still only average around NT$17,000 per month. This was pay discrepancy has been a major galvanizing factor for the union to take shape. 

During the meeting, attendees also continued the votes on a mock referendum on a wide variety of issues important to migrant workers in Taiwan. The three issues on the ballot included: Protecting migrant caregivers until the Labor Standards Act. Giving foreign workers the right to change their employers freely. Getting rid of the private employment brokerage system in favor of a direct government to government hiring scheme.

There are 15 designated voting areas across the country, with ballots to be opened every two weeks. The voting on the referendum is being held from Sept. 17 until Dec. 10, with the final results of the vote to be announced on Dec. 17 in tandem with a rally on migrant workers' rights.

According to the Ministry of Labor, of the 624,758 migrant workers in Taiwan, 237,291 were employed as domestic caregivers as of the end of 2016, an increase of 5.77 percent over 2015. 

The following photos of the event were taken by Taiwan Observer:

 

Video of meeting filmed by Taiwan Observer: