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Taiwan's MOL working on banning onsite factory dorms

Taiwan's Ministry of Labor working on amending laws to ban onsite factory dormitories

Fire at dormitory in December 2017.
Charred remains of the dormitory after the fire.

Fire at dormitory in December 2017. (CNA photo)

Charred remains of the dormitory after the fire. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Ministry of Labor (MOL) announced yesterday (Oct. 25) that it plans on holding inter-ministerial meetings on amending the labor law to make onsite factory dormitories illegal and penalize employers for the deaths or injuries of foreign employees by lowering their worker quota.

In December of last year, six Vietnamese workers lost their lives in a fire in their illegal dormitory at a plastics factory in Taoyuan, while in April, two migrant workers died in their dorm during a fire at a printed circuit board factory, also in Taoyuan. In the aftermath of the deaths, in May and June of this year, there were large protests held by foreign workers over housing and safety issues, including the separation of worker dormitories from factories.

In June, in a phone interview with CNA Deputy Labor Minister Shih Keh-her (施克和) said, "We understand their demands. The one that dormitories be located a safe distance from factories is the right way to keep residences free from workplace hazards."

Yesterday, Hsueh Chien-chung (薛鑑忠), a section chief in the MOL's Workforce Development Agency, said that current Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) regulations allow for the existence of dormitories in the factory areas. Therefore, in order to make this practice illegal, the MOL will need to hold inter-ministerial discussions with the MOEA.

Hsueh said that the MOL is also currently working on amending Article 54 and Article 72 of the Employment Service Act to penalize employers by lowering their foreign worker permitted quota by five for each time a foreign employee dies on the job. The new law would also lower an employer's quota by one for each time one of its foreign workers is injured.

After the fires, Hsueh said that the MOL launched a special inspection task force, which found that out of a total of 70 factories inspected, only 14 had conformed to regulations, while 80 percent were found to have substandard conditions.

Hsueh pointed out that among the violators, 13 were simple infractions, such as not providing instructions in the native language to the workers and not informing the workers of the 1995 complaint hotline. Hsueh said that all of these factories later rectified their mistakes.

However, the remaining 43 violators were found to have committed more serious infractions, with 34 failing to comply with building safety codes, and 17 failing to provide adequate housing conditions for its foreign workers, such a giving them less than the required 3.2 square meters of living space per person.

Another 11 had taken inadequate fire prevention measures, or the steps taken were inconsistent with fire safety.

Hsueh said that if the conditions in these factories did not improve, they would remove their right to provide work permits.

According to government statistics, as of September, the number of foreign migrant workers has reached 699,379.