What you need to know
More than 20 migrant laborers came together to protest what they claim is a cycle of falsified documents and exploitation at HTC's factories.
A group of Filipino migrant workers gathered outside of Taipei 101 in Taipei’s busy Xinyi District on the morning of June 3, 2018 to protest their treatment by employers HTC and Google, demand government protections and urge greater corporate social responsibility from both companies.
At root of their complaints are allegations that HTC tricked and cheated its migrant labor force on multiple occasions and that the government and that labor bureaus are not enforcing laws which could protect migrant workers.
According to a press release from labor rights organization Serve the People Association (SPA) and other groups responsible for organizing the protest, the problems came to a head when HTC sold its “Powered by HTC” division to Google in 2017. In February of this year, HTC gathered workers from the division to announce that the sale would result in layoffs, and that the workers would need to return home.
SPA and other groups helped mediate the labor dispute, stopping the layoffs temporarily. During this process, workers said that the company had committed several contractual and legal violations.
According the SPA, the workers' allegations fall into five categories:
- HTC did not inform workers it intends to lay off migrant workers and local Taiwanese, citing “operational secrecy” to protect its stocks, but many Filipino workers have been encouraged to sign voluntary resignations to go home.
- HTC deducted NT$2,500 from workers’ monthly pay to cover food and accommodation costs, but contracts signed by workers indicate these costs would be covered by the company.
- Filipino workers’ contracts had forged addendums attached in order to negate the stipulation that HTC would cover food and accommodation. Workers say signatures and fingerprints on these addendums do not match those of the workers.
- HTC deducted a “food service fee” on workers’ monthly pay slips. According to the company, this is incurred when workers exceed an allotted stipend for food. Protesters said that no receipts or lists have been provided to corroborate the fee.
- Dormitory coordinators seized electronics and appliances for dorm management purposes, and in some cases stole or sold the workers’ personal belongings.
Gilda Banugan, chairperson of the Taiwan chapter of Migrante-International, an advocacy organization for overseas Filipinos, said in a statement: “Migrant Filipino workers are not garbage that can be easily disposed of by HTC. As a leading company in Taiwan, they must be the forerunner in championing the interests of their workers and not violating them.”
Banugan migrated to Taiwan as a domestic caretaker before finding her calling helping other migrant workers. She said that she never personally experienced the labor abuses that other migrant workers experience.
One worker, who asked for her name to be withheld, said that in 2017 she traveled to Taiwan in order to help her family, including a two year old daughter that she left behind in the Philippines. She said that she noticed problems almost immediately – on arriving in Taiwan, a side contract was attached to her papers with her signature forged and a stranger’s much larger fingerprint included. This document was an addendum which stipulated workers would have NT$2,500 deducted from their pay monthly and that they were responsible for their own costs incurred for Philippines-Taiwan travel, twice yearly medical check-ups and annual Alien Resident Card (ARC) renewal.
On arriving in Taiwan, a side contract was attached to her papers with her signature forged and a stranger’s much larger fingerprint included.
The protest was initiated by Serve the People Association and was supported by several organizations, including the Trade Union of Electrical, Electronic and Information in Taiwan (TUEEIT), Youth Labor Union 95, Pioneer Labor, Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Migrante International Taiwan Chapter and the National Home-based Workers’ Union.
Organizers of the protest issued a list of 8 demands in order to address the problem: greater transparency regarding layoffs, assistance transitioning to new jobs in Taiwan, reimbursement for food and accommodation costs, dismissal of any forged documents, an investigation into the documents, a return of private property, accountability by Google and intervention by Taiwan's Ministry of Labor.
Lennon Ying-Dah Wong (汪英達) of SPA said that the organization has helped 250 workers apply for and broker settlements with HTC and the labor bureau in Taoyuan. Some workers have gone back home, taking HTC’s severance package, either through persuasion or coercion. Wong said that in these cases, the workers “feel that compensation is maybe better than nothing.”
According to Wong, for many HTC’s Taiwan factories, Taiwan was still an attractive place to work – they would likely not find better paying work at home, that pay elsewhere in Southeast Asia is often too low, the cost of living in countries like Japan and Korea is too expensive and that Arab countries typically only hire Filipinos as domestic care workers. Wong added that it’s likely those who have returned home will use their compensation money to pay new broker fees to return to Taiwan.
HTC did not respond to requests for comment.
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Editor: Morley J Weston