Workers march for cut in hours

Agence France-Presse, 11 December 2000, 12:10 AM

TAIPEI: Hundreds of slogan-chanting workers took to the streets of Taiwan’s capital yesterday, claiming their rights were being sacrificed in favour of the economy after the government backtracked on a proposal to cut the working week.

The protesters, from dozens of workers’ groups, sang to boost their morale at a downtown park before the march, which coincided with International Human Rights Day.

Holding aloft placards and banners that read human rights of workers must not be abused and unemployed workers support 84 hours each fortnight, they marched through the city centre.

The Taiwanese government had last month retabled proposals to cut the working week from 48 to 44 hours, rejecting a parliamentary amendment that would have led to a bigger reduction in hours.

Government spokesman Su Cheng-ping said the cabinet’s decision reflected its desire to protect investment in the island’s industries.

Under a draft amendment adopted by parliament in June, maximum working hours would have been reduced to a maximum of 84 hours each fortnight.

But the proposal came under attack from local industrialists, many of whose companies are already suffering from a shortage of labour.

The island’s economic architect, Council for Economic Planning and Development said a 44-hour working week would cost local companies an extra NT$80.6 billion (HK$19.34 billion) a year in overtime pay.