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Taiwan: Migrant Worker Rally-“I want my day off!!”

On International Human Rights Day, the dogfighting politics of the two major parties still occupied the front pages in Taiwan's mass media. The politicians consume the terms “democracy” and “freedom” for their own political odds while neglect basic rights of underprivileged communities. GVO Taiwan team would cover some important human right issues and firstly we bring you the story of biannual rally of migrant workers in Taiwan.

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photo by RCAN
humblest appeal

In the last 15 years, Southeast Asian migrant workers have become an important manpower in many Taiwan labour-intensive industries. These works may jeopardize their health, safety and even life, nevertheless, their rights are often neglected. Moreover, they are suffered from the double oppression of being “aliens” (foreigners) and marginalized labors in Taiwan society.

normal_---_0002.jpg photo by RCAN

Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT) initiated a migrant worker rally to fight for their own right on December 9, the eve of International Human Rights Day. The rally drummed up migrant workers from Philippine, Thailand, Indonesia , Vietnam and some local NGOs. The route crossed the high streets of Taipei and participants shouted out their appeal for basic right– I want my day off!, to attract passers-by attention. They ask Taiwanese to be aware of the fact that there is still a group of people forced to work long hours without any break in this “modernized” society.

rally.jpg migrant worker's street performance, photo by bad mouth

There are 160,000 migrant workers serving in domestic sector like nursing and care-taking. However, they are excluded from the Labor Standards Act, a basic labour protection law in Taiwan and they don't have any right to holiday nor extra payment for overtime work. Chen Show-Lien and FoolFitz, volunteers of TIWA, have written up stories of two run-away migrant workers. They are exploited by their employers without any legal protection. Miss Chen also looks into the migrant workers’ contribution to Taiwan underprivileged families :

因為被排除於勞基法的適用範圍,外籍家庭類勞工沒有任何法令的保護,來到台灣只能碰運氣,運氣好的遇到好僱主,運氣不好只能在惡劣的勞動條件中,為了生存 而奮鬥。台灣人對這些來台工作的外勞,常常用:「她們都是來賺台灣的錢」帶過。這句話掩蓋了太多的東西,她們來台灣其實撐起了兩個家庭,一個是她們母國的 原生家庭;一個是僱用她們的台灣家庭。如果不是她們願意以極低的薪資,負擔起全年無休的照顧工作,彌補了台灣社會福利漏洞,替台灣人照顧臥病在床、行動不 便的家人,讓他們能出去工作養家,不知道有多少弱勢家庭會垮掉。在一次訪談中,一位聘請家庭看護工的僱主告訴我,如果不是有外勞幫她,她會帶著她的母親一 起去自殺。

Without any protection, the migrant caretakers can only depend on their luck when they are working in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese simply regard migrant workers as money seekers and ignore their inhumane working conditions. In fact, migrant caretakers have to shoulder double burdens– one is the pressure of economic income from their home countries, and another pressure comes from the employers’ families in Taiwan. They take care of people in needed, so other family members can earn more income. Once in a conversation, an employer told me from the bottom of her heart that she would kill her elderly mother and herself if they were not assisted by migrant caretaker.

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New immigrants and gender/sexuality Rights NGO also support migrants workers. photo by vc2401

Taiwan authority nevertheless leaves all home caring responsibilities of the elderly and handicapped to the families and migrant caretakers without providing any social assistance. MOI offers “Respite Care” to families that need some break from long-term home care. But this respite service has excluded families with migrant caretakers. Migrant workers thus are unlikely have holidays and breaks from their work. MENT demands MOI to amend the regulation of home care with five suggestions:

  • migrant workers in home-care industry should be protected by labour laws.
  • abolish private agency for migrant employment, apply direct nation to nation contract
  • migrant workers have right to change employers
  • cancel the limitation of working years
  • respect their rights to organize union

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photo by coolloud

Two employers on wheelchair joined the rally to show their support and appreciation to migrant workers. Together with their migrant employees, they sang a popular song like a family on the stage.

normal_---_0023.jpg photo by RCAN

And here is a video clip of the rally on Peopo.

Benla posted his thought:

坐在輪椅上的是兩位身體不方便的朋友,他們是雇主,但,支持移工們要有休假的權利。我不曉得有多少台灣的朋友會有同樣的想法,但,我相信許多僱主可能並不知道規範家庭看護工的法令並不合理,因為,僱主自己對勞動法令恐怕也是相當陌生。 我想告訴移工朋友:謝謝你們,要感謝的,並不是因為妳們幫忙分擔了台灣許許多多的家庭負擔,或者,成了台灣經濟奇蹟的另一群無名英雄,而是,你們讓我們看清了自己,看清了自己的傲慢與不足,因為你們,讓我們反省,讓我們成長。 感謝,我們還在學習,我們會更努力。

Two employers were on wheelchair, they came here to show their support. I am not sure how many Taiwanese would share their views. I guess many employers do not really care about labour regulations and have no idea how unreasonable the working conditions are. I want to thank you all, the migrant heros and heroines, for shouldering the home-care burden and contributing to Taiwan's economic miracle. Your presence serves as a mirror to reflect our arrogance and insufficiency. You make us realize the need for introspection and improvement. Thank you, we will united and work together for change.

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2100225061_8d2c9f0c41.jpg 2097936430_680742acfd.jpg everybody cosigned on the long narrow strip, photo by RCAN and coolloud

This article is originally written by Foolfitz in Chinese, and translated into English by nairobi. Both Foolfitz and nairobi are dedicated members of GV Chinese Lingua.

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