What you need to know
Taiwan has the sixth highest average work hours in the world, yet revisions to the Labor Standards Act suggested this week by the government roll back hard-fought victories for labor rights secured last year, and leave the door open for employers to exploit workers unprotected by unions.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor drew fire from labor rights groups and opposition legislators this week after the release of draft amendments to Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act.
The draft, submitted for public input on Oct. 31, was criticized for kowtowing to employers and leaving workers vulnerable to being overworked.
A key revision states that employees are able to work for 12 days straight before taking a day off, rather than the current rule introduced last year, which stipulates one mandatory day off per week plus one flexible day of rest.
At a question and answer session following the release of the revised Act, lawmakers including Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chiang Yung-chang (江永昌) expressed dismay at the government’s stance given that the law had only been amended 11 months previously in order to protect workers’ rights.
Despite those changes, Taiwan still has the sixth highest average work hours in the world, Chiang said, adding that tax reductions rather than an erosion of labor rights is the best way to give businesses flexibility.
Kuomintang legislator Chen Yi-min (陳宜民) reminded Taiwan Premier William Lai ((賴清德) that it was only under the proviso that they would receive a guaranteed two days off a week that the public accepted the cancellation of seven national holidays last year.
Lai replied that the government is still consulting on the issue.
The amendments also seek to increase maximum monthly overtime to 54 hours from 46. An alternative provision suggests a cap of 138 hours over three months. Either way the door is open for employers to force workers to put in extra shifts, opponents of the revisions argued.
Public consultation on amendments to the Labor Standards Act remains open until Nov. 7.