Nearly half of Taiwan's major foreign worker employers poorly manage their foreign staff, a survey conducted by the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (勞委會) has found.
The labor affairs council conducted the poll of 228 manufacturing and construction companies which are employers of at least 100 foreign workers between mid-September and the end of October, finding that five of the surveyed companies were already closed and 110 companies had violated the current laws governing foreign laborers and related affairs in Taiwan. The rest, or 113 companies, have not violated any laws.
The labor council conducted the poll in the wake of a Thai worker riot at a dormitory at a Kaohsiung MRT construction site in August - a riot which was considered by political observers as one of the major reasons for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to suffer a humiliating defeat in the December 3 "three-in-one" local government elections.
It was found in the poll that 54 percent of the major foreign worker employing companies have not maintained efficient and sufficient bilingual signs at their factories or offices - their fire-fighting equipment and escape exits have signs only in Chinese.
More than 30 percent of the respondent companies maintained filthy living quarters and inadequate public places for the foreign laborers and 20 percent of the respondents had tiny rooms for the foreign workers and their water pumps were not cleaned regularly.
The poll also found that many of the surveyed companies have employed unqualified labor managers and some companies didn't even have any labor management regulations.
After the Kaohsiung Thai worker riot, the labor council authorities promised to revamp the country's foreign labor policy and amend the current foreign labor law to help improve working conditions for the migrant workers - roughly 320,000 of them, mostly from Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.
A Council of Labor Affairs ad hoc group has submitted an 11-point proposal recently on this effort. Main points of the proposal include that the employer is subject to jail terms if the freedom, life or property of the foreign laborers working at his company are threatened or impaired.
The potential foreign worker employer should submit a copy of the company's foreign labor management regulations to the local government for approval prior to hiring any foreign worker and the local government authorities should conduct on-the-spot investigations before granting the approval, according to the proposal.
The current broker system will be revamped too and there will be a mechanism to judge which foreign labor brokers should be sacked or retained based on assessment reports, the proposal says.
The labor affairs community, however, has different opinions about the council's moves aimed at amending the foreign labor law.
However, Chen Su-hsiang, chairwoman of the Taiwan International Workers Association, is doubtful about the labor council's revamp plans, saying that the government is only applying a stopgap measure and a piecemeal solution to a major issue.
Chen added that the government should not treat foreign labor affairs from the angle of "management." Rather, she said, the government should improve Taiwan's foreign workers' policy from the perspective of the foreign workers' needs and rights.
Professor Cheng Chih-yueh from National Cheng Chi University said that regulations or laws are supposed to be enacted to serve a nation's policy. If regulations or laws are legislated without considering national policies, these laws will run parallel with the intent of the nation's overall wishes.