Migrant workers in Taiwan want legal protection as Mother's Day gift


CAN | 05/02/2021

Taipei, May 2 (CNA) More than 100 migrant domestic workers staged a rally in Taipei on Sunday, calling for better protection of their rights and welfare, ahead of Mother's Day.

The workers, many of them mothers from the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, said legal protection is what they would like as a gift for Mother's Day, which falls on May 9.

"We are not robots," "We need rest," "Household work is work and deserves legal protections," they chanted at the rally in front of the Cabinet building.

Gracie Liu (劉曉櫻), a spokesperson for the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), said foreign home care workers in Taiwan do not have legal protections because they are not covered by the country's Labor Standards Act.

Enactment of a household service law would be "the best gift for the 250,000 migrant workers in Taiwan for Mother's Day, especially for those who are mothers," she said.

In 2004, MENT put forth a proposal for a draft bill called the Household Service Act, which sought to include all domestic workers in Taiwan's labor insurance system, set standards for their wages, allow compensation for work-related injuries, and provide guidelines for their room, board, and mandatory rest periods.

The bill was shelved in the Legislature, however, and not been brought up since for review.

According to MENT, foreign domestic employees work 10.4 hours a day on average, earning NT$17,000 (US$600) per month, well below Taiwan's monthly minimum wage of NT$24,000.

Citing a report released by the Ministry of Labor in 2020, MENT said 34.4 percent of migrant domestic workers in Taiwan are not permitted by their employers to take leave.

An Indonesian caregiver, who asked to be called Feni, said it is tough work, but it is sometimes not recognized as worthy of proper pay.

"Some Taiwanese say migrant caregivers are greedy, but those who take care of the sick and elderly know that it is not an easy task," said Feni, who has been working in Taiwan for 10 years.

Meanwhile, Aileen dela Cruz, director of the Domestic Caretaker Union, said Taiwan's policymaking and legislative bodies should recognize that domestic workers are entitled to the rights and dignity associated with such employment.

Also at the rally, Kang Yang (楊剛), a representative of the Taiwan-based human rights group Covenants Watch, said the government must ensure that all migrant workers have the same protection as other employees, based on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Taiwan ratified in 2009.

Other human rights groups that participated in Sunday's rally included Taiwan International Workers' Association, Caritas Taiwan, Awakening Foundation, and Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

In response to the migrant workers' demands, the Ministry of Labor issued a press release, saying that the proposed Household Service Act remains a challenge because it is difficult to specify the work hours and duties of domestic employees.

The government, however, has been taking steps to better protect the rights and welfare of migrant domestic workers, the ministry said, adding that all migrant workers were included in the recently passed Occupational Accident Insurance and Protection Act.

Regarding duties and work conditions, Taiwanese employers of migrant workers should adhere to the terms of their work contracts, in accordance with the Employment Service Act, the ministry said.

(By Emerson Lim)




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