Blue-collar workers want foreign labor reductions

By Cody Yiu, Taipei Times, Saturday 21 February 2004, Page 2

Taiwanese laborers support imported labor but want to reduce the numbers of foreign laborers over the coming years, according to a recent survey conducted by the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU).

The survey, which received responses from 13,774 workers, reported that 70.4 percent wanted the government to reduce the number of foreign laborers, while 24.5 percent wanted the government to cease importing labor altogether.

We interpret these figures to mean that there are still some undesirable jobs which do not appeal to Taiwanese workers and therefore that foreign labor is needed to fill in these gaps, said TCTU President Lu Tian-lin (盧天麟).

However, over the years, the reasons for importing labor have shifted away from the original policy, which has resulted in foreign workers taking jobs that were supposed to be for local workers, Lu said.

Lu also said that the policy importing labor that was enacted while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in charge was intended to place a small number of foreign workers in high-risk jobs that were labor-intensive and involved exposure to high levels of pollution.

However, Lu said, over the years foreign workers have taken over more common jobs such as those in the manufacturing industry and domestic jobs such as caregiving.

We hope the government will take a step back and return to the first policy so that foreign workers can only work in jobs meeting the three original conditions, said Lu.

Lu said that because caregivers were predominantly foreign workers, no comprehensive system had been developed to train local staff. As a result, foreign caregivers were still needed to make up demand.

But Lu also said that the TCTU supported equal treatment for local and foreign workers.

We hope that foreign workers will be protected by the Labor Standards Law (勞動基準法) so they won’t be exploited by employers or employment agencies. They have rights, too, Lu said.

TCTU is Taiwan’s first legal and autonomous national trade union federation. It was recognized by the government on May Day, 2000.

The survey consisted of 12 questions covering workers’ views on labor policy. It also asked about their political orientation.

Asked which political party cared more about labor policy, 40.8 of respondents indicated that no political party cared, while 20.3 percent chose the Democratic Progressive Party and 16.6 percent chose the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).