More than 1,000 foreign workers in Taiwan gathered in Taipei on Sunday to demand speedy passage of an amendment that would scrap a requirement that migrant workers leave the country for at least one day every three years if they want to be re-hired.
At present, migrant workers sign contracts of up to three years with their employers and must leave the country when the contract expires before paying a brokerage fee of between NT$80,000 (US$2,555) and NT$150,000 to re-enter the country.
Because of that, many migrants abscond from their jobs before their three-year contracts are up, said Chen Jung-jou (???), secretary general of Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA) which organized Sunday's protest.
Wearing yellow ribbons and holding placards reading "Abolish 1-Day Exit Every 3 Years" and "Migrant Workers Oppose Exploitation," the protesters marched from Democratic Progressive Party headquarters to the Legislative Yuan, where the amendment is being reviewed.
Chen charged that the brokerage industry, which opposes the amendment, was using "discriminatory and false arguments" to try to stop the Legislature from approving the measure.
Manpower agencies have argued that scrapping such a requirement would increase the chances of foreign workers fleeing their jobs and that migrant workers becoming new immigrants would lower the quality of Taiwan's population, according to Chen.
The revision to the Employment Service Act, which passed an initial review by the Legislature on June 22, would allow foreign workers who have worked in Taiwan for three years -- the longest contract allowed -- to be re-hired without having to leave the country for at least one day.
The amendment was put onto the legislative agenda to pave the way for a second reading in July, but it has gone nowhere because of opposition from manpower brokers.
TIWA said the amendment only scraps the requirement of leaving for one day after working in Taiwan for three years and does not change the foreign worker management system.
If the requirement remains intact, the result will be to let foreign brokerage agencies continue to collect huge brokerage fees from the migrant workers every three years, TIWA said.
"The scrapping of the requirement will be the first step toward cutting the exploitation of migrant workers and toward Taiwan becoming a country that adheres to human rights," the association said.
It accused the manpower agencies of provoking discrimination against foreign workers to hide their own attempts to reap the gains of processing the re-entry of the foreign workers.
"It's just a strategy to scare local people," Chen said.
Andrey, an Indonesian worker attending the rally, said he has been in Taiwan for 11 years working as a caregiver and has paid big sums of money to brokers over that time.
"I'm here with the consent of my current employer, who is here today to support my appeal to the government," said Andrey.
A Vietnamese worker who declined to be named said he has been in Taiwan for over two years and has just finished paying off his brokerage fee.
"But now I must leave Taiwan and pay another huge sum before I can come back here again to work," he complained.
TIWA worker Chuang Shu-ching (???) argued, however, that "amending the law is not about helping migrant workers save money. It's about reducing their exploitation."
Chuang urged the government to pass the law amendment soon so that foreign workers who want to continue working after three years will not have to be exploited again.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel