Indonesia offers compromise in dispute over migrant workers’ costs

Taipei-The Indonesian government has proposed that Taiwanese employers pay six types of costs when they hire migrant workers from the country, instead of making the workers shoulder most of the burden, as is currently the case, Taiwan's Ministry of Labor (MOL) said Thursday after a meeting with Indonesian officials.

The request is seen as a compromise offer; it's a decrease from the previous request that Taiwanese employers pay 11 types of fees, something Taiwan's government had rejected.

The fees now requested by Indonesia are airplane tickets to and from Indonesia, visa costs, labor brokerage fees, costs related to verifying the contract signed between employers and the migrant workers they hire, as well as the cost of the accommodation migrant workers stay in before leaving Indonesia.

Information provided by the Indonesian government showed that the six types of fees would add up to around NT$23,700 (US$832).

Other fees will be shouldered by the migrant workers themselves, including COVID-19 testing costs, passport processing fees, health check costs, and application fees for a document that shows an individual's criminal record, if any, MOL Deputy Minister Wang An-pang (???) told reporters.

The Indonesian government would also pay for some of the placement costs, he added.

In a statement after the meeting, Indonesia's Ministry of Manpower said the new placement fee policy is meant to prevent migrant workers from being overcharged, which could do great harm to the workers.

The Ministry of Manpower said it would take time to review the regulations carefully and hold further discussions with relevant agencies and brokers to resolve this issue.

The two countries have been at odds over a regulation introduced in July last year by the Indonesian government that exempts certain migrant workers from placement fees and requires employers to shoulder the costs instead.

The policy, which applies to Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and 10 other destinations, was due to be implemented in January this year but was later postponed to July.

Indonesia had initially claimed that it had reached a consensus with Taiwan on the issue, but this was refuted by Taiwan's MOL, which had said that the policy had been unilaterally decided by the Indonesian government.

Another problem has been that Taiwan decided to suspend entry of Indonesian migrant workers from Dec. 4, citing the unreliability of the COVID-19 test results they presented.

In an attempt to resolve the disputes, Taiwan and Indonesia held a virtual meeting in late December, but failed to reach a resolution. Two more meetings were then scheduled but were both canceled by the Indonesian government.

A second meeting was finally held on Thursday, which was attended by officials from the MOL as well as Benny Rhamdani, head of the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BP2MI).

It was during this virtual meeting that the Indonesian side proposed that Taiwanese employers pay six types of fees, instead of the 11 they had previously required, Wang said.

According to Wang, Taiwanese employers have always paid the costs for contract verification and airfare for Indonesian migrant workers to return home, so the MOL will focus on negotiating the remaining four fees in future discussions.

Due to time constraints, the MOL was only able to raise questions on the accommodation fee during Thursday's meeting. Wang said they did not think the request was reasonable, as there was not a clear standard for the quality of the accommodation and how long the workers would be staying there.

The two sides did reach a consensus to use written communication to discuss further details on the policy, Wang said.

The Indonesian officials have expressed a desire to come to Taiwan for in-person meetings, and so the MOL will submit related plans to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) to see if this is feasible, according to Wang.

During the meeting, the Indonesian side also detailed its efforts to ensure that COVID-19 tests issued by local institutions are reliable and expressed hopes that Taiwan can re-allow entry of Indonesian migrant workers, he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel