Talks on abolishing the seven statutory holidays and two-day weekends in Taiwan could break down as a key industry group threatens to walk away from the negotiating table.

In a press conference on June 27, the Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI) called on the government to go ahead with a proposed cancelation of leave across seven statutory holidays and vowed to walk from the negotiations if the Tsai administration does not meet its demands.

The CNFI said workers are currently entitled to 56 days of maternity leave, eight days of marital leave, five days of paternity leave and seven to 10 days of annual leave. In addition, workers receive half pay across 30 days of sick leave and 14 days of personal leave.

The federation argues that after removing the seven statutory holidays as per the proposal, the annual 2,134 working hours that Taiwanese workers must put in would still be less than in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. It added that the amount of leave for Taiwanese workers would not be less than in European countries.

However, most Taiwanese appear to disagree with the industry group.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) says the Ministry of Labor (MOL) has failed to uphold labor rights and has not met the high hopes workers had placed in the new government. The government, it added, should uphold the seven holidays without compromise.

Netizens have also questioned whether all workers could ask for maternity leave and marital leave every year. Others said the CNFI should also take salaries into consideration instead of merely comparing working hours with other countries.

One-day weekends

Since new regulations for public servants came into effect in 2014, two-day weekends have been widely observed by Taiwanese companies.

In an effort to ensure that workers receive two days of regular leave per seven days worked, the MOL has announced amendments to the Labor Standards Act. However, loopholes in the regulations could mean that people may still have to work on a Saturday or Sunday.

The MOL says the two-day weekend would comprise a statutory regular leave (例假) and a day of recess (休假). On the day of recess, employers may ask workers to work, but must provide extra pay. Employers, however, cannot ask workers to work on their regular leave days – except cases of natural disasters or emergencies. In addition, employers should give compensatory leave if people are asked to work on a regular leave day.

On June 28, the MOL released a survey showing that 85% of respondents supported a two-day weekend with statutory regular leave and a day of recess. The poll triggered a strong backlash among netizens, with some trying to find out who conducted the poll.

The SDP says the government should listen to the voice of ordinary workers. For its part, the New Power Party says the government should not ignore Taiwan's low salary labor environment.

The People First Party meanwhile says the MOL should not be threatened by the employers and must implement two-day weekends for Taiwanese workers.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole