Government urged to step up measures for migrant worker rehires

Taipei,  Nongovernment migrant shelters urged the government Tuesday to step up measures to help workers whose contracts are about to expire or which already have, to find new employers without the need to return to their countries of origin.

Filipino-American priest Father Joy Tajonera of Taichung’s Tanzi Catholic Church told CNA that in the past week he has been contacted by some 10 Filipino migrant workers expressing their plight that they need to return to the Philippines before they can be rehired.

Some workers are now having a hard time getting a job transfer permit because their employer or broker has refused, Tajonera said.

Tajonera said he thinks the migrants have been told to go back to the Philippines because their brokers in Taiwan are interested in sharing the placement fee that the worker will need to pay to local manpower agencies.

According to current labor laws, placement agencies or brokers in Taiwan are not allowed to collect placement fees or so-called “job-buying fees.” They are only allowed to charge service fees, which range from NT$1,500 (US$49.55) to NT$1,800 per month.

Lennon Ying-dah Wong (汪英達), director of the service center and shelter for migrant workers under the Serve the People Association in Taoyuan, urged the Ministry of Labor (MOL) to figure out why the problem still exists despite the passage of supposedly labor-friendly measures, such as the amendment of Article 52 of the Employment Service Act in 2016.

The legislation eliminates the requirement that foreign laborers have to leave Taiwan for one day upon expiration of their employment permit before re-entering the country to start a new contract.

“Furthermore, we are also in the middle of a pandemic, we don’t need migrant workers taking the risk of infection due to air travel,” Wong said.

The current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which was first discovered in China at the end of last year, has already caused 366,650 infections and 16,272 deaths around the world, including 216 infections and two deaths in Taiwan, according to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control. The majority of Taiwan’s cases have been imported.

Another pressing issue is that Tajonera said he is currently sheltering some 18 migrants whose contracts have been terminated but who have not yet found new employers.

One of the people under his care is a Filipina caregiver from Keelung, identified only as Rita, who said she lost her job after she reported the daughter of the 94-year-old paralyzed woman she was looking after for domestic abuse.

“The daughter was hitting her mother every day,” Rita said.

Even though she has her transfer papers, she has so far failed to find a new employer, Rita said, adding that her two-month grace period for finding a new employer will be up on April 5, after which she will have to leave the country.

In response, the MOL’s Workforce Development Agency (WDA) said migrant workers who have completed their contract have the right to be rehired by a new employer without the need to exit the country.

The same rights apply for migrant workers who cannot complete their contracts for reasons beyond their control, such as company closures or if the person they are caring for dies, the WDA said.

Employers should complete and submit paperwork for the transfer two to four months before the contract is due to expire, the WDA said, adding that the workers can also report their employers if they refuse to do so by using the 1995 foreign workers’ free telephone hotline.

Likewise, the workers can also report their brokers for illegal activities such as abuse, demanding placement fees or hindering employers’ willingness to sign transfer applications, the WDA said.

A WDA section chief, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it will not be too difficult for migrant workers to find jobs in the coming weeks because as of mid-march, the number of newly arrived migrant workers from overseas had dropped to only half of the figure from the same period of last year.

“There will be a great demand for migrant workers,” he added.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel