Foreign workers march for law amendment

Under the amendment, foreign blue collar workers would be permitted to stay in Taiwan for up to 12 years, negating the need for expensive three-yearly visa and certification renewal fees.

The march started from the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and ended at the Legislative Yuan, said organizers the Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA, 台灣移工聯盟).

“Scrapping the rule is the first step Taiwan can take towards reducing exploitation of migrant workers,” stated TIWA. “The bill has already been approved in the first reading, and now only needs to go through another second and third reading for it to pass within the current legislative session.”

TIWA member Betty Chen said migrant workers have to pay an agency fee of around NT$80,000 to NT$150,000 to brokerages every three years if they wish to be re-hired — an amount so high that some workers have chosen to run away before their three years are over.

“The rule that requires them to leave every three years is a structural reason for absconding,” said Chen.

The revision to the Employment Service Act, which passed an initial review by the Legislature 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 temporarily leave the country.

The bill, scheduled for a second reading in July, has been delayed after protests from labor brokerages.

‘Rights over profit’

Brokerage firms have argued the bill, if passed, would encourage more foreign laborers to abscond, removing a system that weeds out less competent workers.

Chen said the brokerage firms had been falsely claiming the amendment would take jobs away from Taiwanese nationals and allow migrant workers to become naturalized Taiwanese.

“These are saying misleading things, stirring up racist sentiments among the public,” she added, noting that the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) clearly stipulates blue-collar workers cannot become naturalized Taiwanese citizens regardless of the length of employment.

Amending the law is not to help migrants save money, but to reduce chances of them being exploited, said TIWA’s Chuang Shu-ching (莊舒晴).

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