Taiwan gives in to bosses on shorter hours

The Straits Times, 25 November 2000

TAIPEI—Taiwan's government officials have re-tabled proposals to allow a smaller cut to the work week following strong protests from local industrialists, many of whose companies are already suffering from a shortage of labour.

The Executive Yuan or Cabinet decided to submit a Bill to the legislature to adjust the work week to 44 hours, to moderate the burden of work week changes on traditional industries.

Government officials were defending the Cabinet's proposal, a reversal of the legislature's decision to shorten the work week to 84 hours over two weeks, Taipei Times reported.

President Chen Shui-bian explained that the government has opted for the 44-hour work week because it must take into consideration the possible impact on economic development while seeking to improve labour rights.

Leaders of the Kuomintang (KMT), People First Party and New Party caucuses in the legislature reiterated that they would not support the Executive Yuan’s plan to keep the work week at 44 hours unless it was able to coordinate an agreement with labour groups.

The legislature revised the Labour Standards Law on June 16 to shorten the maximum working time to 84 hours in a two-week period—from the current 48 hours per week, in what was considered a big boost for workers. The move was set to take effect on Jan 1.

The revision, according to analysts, had been proposed by the KMT, which controls the majority of legislative seats, in an attempt to outshine the Democratic Progressive Party-led government's original plan to shorten the work week to 44 hours.

It was Mr Chen's campaign promise to implement a 44-hour work week in 2001 and further shorten it to 40 hours in 2002.

Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions president Hwang Ching-hsien accused the government of being unfair to workers by blaming industrial emigration and economic slowdown on the work week issue in order to curry favour with industry.