Panel agrees that unions need protection

By Chuang Chi-ting, Taipei Times, 16 August 2001

The Economic Development Advisory Conference says that guarantees are needed to ensure that employers don’t retaliate against labor activists.

The Economic Development Advisory Conference’s labor panel agreed yesterday that unions should have more guarantees and that flexible work hours could be negotiated by employers and employees.

All workers should have the right to form unions and improper intervention in the setting up of unions should be avoided, the panel concluded yesterday.

The panel also said that future amendments to the Labor Union Law should guarantee that employees will not be punished for participating in unions. Union guarantees

In addition, the panel confirmed that employers are obliged to engage in negotiations with unions when labor disputes arise.

Currently there are very few unions in Taiwan and most fail to reach a consensus in their negotiations with employers, said Hung Jui-ching (¬x·ç²M), director of the division of labor-employer relations under the Council of Labor Affairs.

Pai Cheng-hsien (¥Õ¥¿¾Ë), a labor representative and participant on the panel, said that in the past many employers who were not fond of unions would fire or transfer to less desirable positions those who are involved in union activities.

Under current laws, there are no penalties or punishment for an employer’s infringement upon the working rights of those involved in unions.

Some of the panel’s participants also said yesterday that many employers are unwilling to discuss labor disputes with unions.

In yesterday’s panel, participants also agreed that employers and their workers should be able to have the room to negotiate flexible work hours.

Last year the Labor Standards Law was amended, reducing work hours to an 84-hour fortnight.

The panel decided that due to the special needs of certain industries—for example, factories that need intensive labor for their 24-hour operation—workers’ hours within a certain period of time could be adjusted.

Such an adjustment is also advantageous for industries whose peak seasons of production vary.

The panel also concluded that in order to protect workers’ rights from exploitation in such working conditions, workers should still have at least one regular day off for every seven days of work.

There should also be limit to a worker’s maximum daily and weekly working hours. In addition, employers should find a way to give additional break hours to those who work long hours.

But the application of such flexible work hours should be approved by a labor union or a related negotiation within the company.

Other conclusions the panel reached yesterday included amending the law to allow workers to withdraw pensions from an individual retirement account or the annuity insurance.

The two options both allow a worker to accumulate his seniority for pension despite switching jobs.

Employers are expected to start depositing 2 percent of a worker’s wage for the latter’s pension funds next year.

Gradually the percentage will be raised to 6 percent.

Currently, most employers do not regularly contribute to employees’ retirement funds.

Workers are not eligible for a pension unless until they work for the same company for 25 years, or when they have worked for it for 15 years by age 55.