Journalism group decries lack of media labor unions

By Cody Yiu, Taipei Times, Sunday 9 May 2004, Page 2

The Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) yesterday publicized the lack of workers' unions in Taiwan's media industry, which the group said frequently results in abuses of media workers' rights.

So far, Taiwan's media environment has not been able to establish a solid structure of unions, and as a result, the work rights of many low-level media personnel are often violated. While the media's job is to monitor the government and broadcast the latest news, media owners run their businesses without protecting human rights. Where does freedom of speech stand? an ATJ statement said.

ATJ released the statement after former Formosa Television Co (FTV) news reporter Chu Ling-hui was sued by FTV for breach of contract for leaving her job before the contract ended. The company asked for financial damages.

Chu joined FTV on March 1, 2001, and on March 31, 2003, was asked to sign a labor contract with FTV, where a clause stipulated that should she leave her job before June 30, 2005, she would have to pay a penalty of twice her annual salary.

In January this year, Chu resigned and was asked to pay NT$2 million for breach of contract.

According to the Council of Labor Affairs, whether this labor contract is deemed void depends on the judge who handles the case.

The Labor Standards Law states that such a labor contract does not apply to such an impermanently contracted employee, which a television news reporter is regarded as. Normally such a labor contract stating the length of service of an employee is valid, unless the contract yields unfairness to one party, said Huang Chiu-kuei, Labor Relations Department director.

It all comes to down to how the judge sees this case, said Huang.

In addition, Huang pointed out that the Article 15 of the Constitution also protects the work rights of citizens.

In an interview with a local newspaper, a high-ranking FTV officer stated that Chu's breach of contract is a fact, given that she signed the contract.

The ATJ stated that it would work with legal, academic and media experts to further protect the rights of media personnel.