HIV-Positive Migrant Worker Dispute Sparks Controversy in Taiwan

HIV-Positive Migrant Worker Dispute Sparks Controversy in Taiwan
Photo Credit: RITCHIE B. TONGO / EPA / 達志影像
What you need to know

An employment dispute involving the treatment of an HIV-infected migrant worker in Taiwan has sparked controversy.

Listen
powered by Cyberon

Liu Shuan-shuan (劉萱萱), who hired an HIV-infected migrant worker, has stirred up a controversy online after she wrote a post on Facebook detailing the Taiwanese government’s handling of an employment dispute.

Liu says that after discovering that her employee was HIV-positive she and her family sought advice from the Ministry of Labor.

She posted a photo of the reply from the government, instructing her to find a new employer for the worker.

“Can you, Minister of Labor, accept migrant workers that are HIV-infected and pregnant taking care of your parents and patients at home?” Liu wrote. She also said that some shelters for migrant workers refuse to take in people with HIV.

The Ministry of Labor issued a statement on July 15 clarifying that it did not encourage the employer to find a new employer for the worker. Given that HIV transmission is clearly understood, the disease should not have an impact on employers, the ministry said. The statement added that any discrimination against HIV-infected workers was unacceptable.

At the time of writing, Liu's post had seen thousands of reactions online. Many people, who say they also employ migrant workers, replied to the post complaining that employers face an unfair situation. Some say that migrant workers bring major social problems to Taiwan. Others go so far as to say that HIV-infected workers should be deported.

Tsai Kun-ju (蔡昆儒), an editor at BuzzOrange, wrote an article criticizing the reaction of Taiwanese netizens.

“The employer really doesn’t have enough knowledge about HIV,” he writes. “Or is he/she so worried because there may be ‘other kinds of interaction’ between them?”

He says it is selfish for Taiwanese to fire an employee because he or she is HIV positive, as workers would have no recourse if their employer were HIV-positive.

Conflicts between migrant workers and employers

Liu’s post also mentioned that if there are disputes between employees and employers, the workers could apply to stay in a government shelter, which receive a NT$500 daily subsidy per person.

The employment security fund should be used to protect Taiwanese employees, not migrant workers, writes Liu.

Lu Zi-an (呂錫安), director of a migrant worker agency, said in a lecture that regulations around the issue need improvement.

While it is believed there is widespread marginalization of migrant workers and HIV patients in Taiwan, most netizens do not appear to be sympathetic.

One netizen, Yang Shin-yi (楊欣怡), commented that the system “bullies employers.” Another, Yang Chihfu, said that workers are quick to seek help from human rights associations and that the government should be careful not to offer limitless protections for workers.

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