Labor union calls for criminal charges against enterprises causing overwork

Thousands of people protest against the revisions to the labor law

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(By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Thousands of people, including labor unions representing private sector workers, civil servants, and even migrant workers, took to the streets on Saturday to protest against revisions to the labor law which they believe would further undermine labor rights and worsen working conditions.

Protesters shouted out slogans along the lines of “stop working overtime and oppose the revisions to the labor law” while waving flags representing dozens of labor unions.

On the stage, five people representing labor unions of registered nurses, engineers, logistics workers, and bus drivers threw pig livers soaked with bloody red water at pictures of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier William Lai (賴清德) to show their anger.

The main appeal of these protesters is for the government to withdraw the revision draft which now awaits their second and third reading at the Legislative Yuan.

In addition, Yang Kuo-chen (楊國禎), director of the Association of Victims of Occupational Injuries, called for legislation that would impose criminal charges on enterprises that force their employees to work overtime and cause occupational injuries or fatalities related to overwork.

According to the demonstration organizer, there were more than 10,000 protesters gathering in front of the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) less than two hours after the event commenced at 12:30 p.m.

The revisions to the labor law known as the Labor Standards Act include possibilities to put off the one-day mandatory day off every week, increase overtime hours from 46 to 54 per month, prolong annual paid holidays by one year, and reduce break hours from 11 to eight hours between shifts through negotiations between workers or labor unions and employers.

Governmental vetting is also required after the aforementioned negotiations if a company hires more than 30 employees.

Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), spokesperson for the Executive Yuan, said at a press conference on Thursday that reducing break hours is exclusive for shift workers during their weekly changes of the shift and those people only constitute 10 percent of the total workforce in the country.

Hsu said such a measure served to prevent employers to hire more staff and thus compress the wages or salaries of original workers.

In addition, Hsu said putting off the mandatory day off every week could only be done after being approved by governmental agencies and the Ministry of Labor, and that in principle, workers could still enjoy one to two days off on a weekly basis.

Minister of Labor Lin Mei-chu (林美珠) added that the authorities would only agree to put off the mandatory day off in exceptional circumstances.

The revisions to the labor law that went into effect no more than one year ago were drafted by the Executive Yuan in early November shortly after Premier Lai had taken office.