Taipei-A coalition of migrant rights groups rallied in Taipei Tuesday, calling on the government to abolish the broker system to free migrant workers from exploitation by manpower agencies.
At the rally staged outside the Ministry of Labor (MOL), Chen Hsiu-lien (???), a member of the Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA), invited migrant workers to share their experiences of unfair practices by their brokers.
The first to take the microphone was Winwin, an Indonesian who said that her broker has charged her NT$4,800 (US$157) to renew her passport, while the actual cost is only NT$800.
She said brokers often charge placement fees, which range from NT$20,000 to NT$90,000, forcing migrant workers to run away because they cannot make the repayments.
Meanwhile, a 33-year-old Filipina who used to work as a nursing aide in Taiwan, expressed a similar concern, noting that her compatriots often have to borrow money to pay for the placement fees before coming to Taiwan.
"The brokers benefit only themselves and create a burden for migrant workers," she said.
The brokers charge a monthly fee of between NT$1,500 and NT$1,800 but do not help their workers in the case of employer abuse, she went on.
Most of the problems expressed by migrant workers are the same, Chen said, adding that the coalition of migrant rights groups -- the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan -- has compiled these problems and published them in book.
The book will be presented to Taiwan's major political parties during a protest march scheduled for Dec. 8 that will begin outside the headquarters of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and proceed to the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) before ending outside the MOL, Chen said.
The protesters are hoping to persuade the winners of the upcoming presidential and legislative elections to abolish the broker system and replace it with a government-to-government direct hiring system.
In response, the MOL's Work Development Agency (WDA) pointed out that it must respect the rules of the countries of origin of the migrant workers, noting for example that Indonesia still requires brokers to handle the processing of domestic helpers going to Taiwan for the first time.
In addition, there is also a direct hiring service center in Taipei set up by the MOL to assist employers wishing to use direct hiring to employ migrant workers, the WDA said, adding that the MOL and local government agencies are willing to investigate cases of broker agencies that violate the law.
The KMT said it respects the views of the migrant rights groups and will take their views into consideration when drawing up its labor- related policies, while the DPP said one of its representatives will be on hand at the Dec. 8 march to accept the book.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel