Dragging On and On,
HSWs under No Legal Protection!
CLA Tramples upon the Migrant Rights!
A Statement by MENT
The migrant household service workers (HSWs) have been introduced [to Taiwan] for 17 years, and the legal protection is still beyond the reach of these orphans of labor-right!
Ever since Liu Hsia event took place in 2003, the migrant advocates had linked together to promote the "legislation for HSWs protection" through many seminars, public hearings, press conferences, demonstrations, and had submitted the workers’ version of "The Household Service Act" to the Legislative Yuan. The government, however, repeatedly chooses to ignore and delay to address the issue. For the past 6 years we have experienced more depressing tragedies where the HSWs, due to lack of rest or day-off, inflicted injury upon others and even took the lives of their own.
On August 4, 2008, the Migrants’ Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT) met Wang Ru-Xuan, the new Chairperson of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), to discuss the inclusion of the HSWs under the protection of Labor Standards Law (LSL). Chairperson Wang Ru-Xuan expressed her support for "the legal protection for the HSWs" and took the initiative to explain: "It was me that raised the policy for protecting the HSWs through legislation in the white paper of Ma Ying-jeou's  presidential election campaign." Right on the spot, both the representatives of the government and workers reached a consensus to include the HSWs into the LSL in the most rapid way. With the long-term experience of facing a government that habitually breaks its promises, the MENT members accordingly urged the CLA to hold regular monthly meetings to discuss the necessary amendment for [the HSWs’] inclusion into the LSL, with the hope that the amending progress can be facilitated.
In the course of the [pre-meeting] discussion, the MENT requested [the CLA] to invite relevant ministries, departments and NGOs to be present at the meetings, and the organizations that sent their representatives include the Ministry of the Interior, the Department of Health, the Department of Labor Insurance, and the advocates for the physical and mental handicapped. For the official meetings, however, the CLA, in addition to its frequent delays for the regular meetings and its constant lateness for providing the pre-meeting materials, most of its relevant departments failed to carry out the resolutions reached in the meetings over the need for them to conduct pre-meeting study for the proposed amendment. As for the “article by article discussion” over the LSL application, it depended almost entirely on the MENT’s efforts in exhausting all possible means to keep the amendment proposal moving, while the CLA just clung to its conservative mentality and kept saying no! Due to the CLA’s inactive attitude in coming up with any applicable amendment proposal, merely few provisions are adopted as feasible in the meetings throughout the whole year.
Fully aware of the CLA’s lack of sincerity in carrying out the LSL amendment and its technical drag, the MENT formally wrote an official letter to the CLA on June 21 2009 to express its withdrawal from the meetings. No sooner 2 days after this official letter was handed out than we learned that Chairperson Wang had convened with scholars and experts in the afternoon of June 24, discussing matters relating to the HSWs’ inclusion into the LSL. After this meeting, Chairperson Wang Ru-Xuan abruptly changed her position in supporting HSWs’ inclusion into the LSL, and decided to formulate a separate special law to protect the HSWs’ working conditions.
In 2003 the workers’ version of "The Household Service Act" draft had already been pending Legislative Yuan approval. For 6 years, however, the CLA has not yet responded with any official version. In August 2004 the CLA held a total of 3 major public seminars in northern, central and southern Taiwan respectively, getting official representatives, experts, scholars and NGOs all together. Most scholars in these seminars publicly expressed that it is only proper to include the HSWs into the LSL for the protection of their working conditions. Starting from 2008 the MENT has taken the LSL inclusion as premise for discussing with the CLA for almost 1 year. And all the efforts made and consensus reached by the NGOs have been totally rejected and completely cast off right after Chairperson Wang attended some meeting behind the curtain!
In the 2005 "Anti-Slavery System" rally for the migrant workers, the MENT has already emphasized that the "legislation for HSW protection" cannot be delayed anymore, no matter [it should be done] through the application of the LSL or the formulation of a special law. As long as it can regulate and protect the basic norms regarding the household services, it is of great urgency. However, the CLA shifts its policies between amendment and legislation constantly, turns a blind eye to the HSWs’ difficult situations of working year-round without any day-off, ignores the efforts made by the NGOs, and displays the carelessness and arrogance of the government in policy making!
All MENT members here express our solemn condemnation and protest to Chairperson Wang Ru-Xuan! And on the eve of the International Migrants Day this December we will launch a major demonstration for the migrant workers to protest against the CLA’s ever-changing policy and trampling on the HSWs!