Migrant workers call for legal protections in Women’s Day rally

Taipei-Migrant domestic workers in Taiwan, supported by representatives from labor rights groups, rallied in front of the Legislative Yuan on Women's Day to ask for legal protections of their rights and welfare.

About 100 demonstrators, mostly caregivers from the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, chanted slogans asking for support for migrant domestic workers, who are generally women.

They also held placards with their appeals written in different languages.

Marisa Garcia, a Filipino domestic worker who was hit by a motorcycle in June 2020, joined the rally in a wheelchair.

According to Garcia, she was out buying food for her employer when the accident happened. She has since been relieved of her job and has had to shoulder rehabilitation expenses on her own.

Fortunately for her, some labor rights groups have been there to provide shelter and financial assistance for the 50-year-old mother, who still has four children to support in the Philippines.

"Migrant domestic workers are not covered in the Labor Standards Act, meaning they do not get compensation when an occupational injury occurs," said Chen Hsiu-lien (???), a spokesperson of the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), during the event.

According to current regulations in Taiwan, an employer is only obliged to enroll employees in the labor insurance program, which provides coverage for occupational injuries, if it has more than five employees.

"Furthermore, migrant domestic workers receive no overtime pay despite long working hours, and they do not get severance pay when their employment is terminated prematurely without any fault on their part," Chen said.

That is in contrast to other migrants, who do get severance if their contract is ended by their employer before it reaches its end.

According to Chen, there are an estimated 230,000 Southeast Asian women currently working in Taiwanese households with monthly salaries of only NT$17,000 (US$600), well below Taiwan's minimum wage of NT$24,000 per month.

Home helpers work 10.4 hours a day on average, and only 11.4 percent of them are allowed by their employers to have regular day offs every week, Chen said, citing data from the Ministry of Labor released in January 2020.

She reiterated a call for the Legislative Yuan to pass the Household Service Act, proposed by MENT in 2004, to fill the need for legal protection of migrant workers in the household sector.

According to MENT, the proposed bill calls for the compulsory inclusion of all domestic workers (including Taiwanese citizens) in social insurance plans, set standards for their compensation for work-related injuries, room and board, and salaries and wages, and clearly stipulate rest periods.

The proposed act has been shelved, however, due to the lack of government resources for long-term care and opposition from employers.

Sun Hsin-hsuan (???), a communications officer for Covenants Watch, a Taiwan-based NGO committed to promoting human rights, said migrant workers should have the same rights as Taiwanese nationals, citing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

"The Legislative Yuan has ratified the ICESCR, part of the International Bill of Human Rights, giving it the status of a domestic law," she said.

"By not providing the same work protections to migrant workers as to local workers, Taiwan's government is violating both domestic laws and international treaties," she said.

The demonstrators hoped the proposed Household Service Act can be reviewed by the Legislature this year.

Ten human rights groups participated in the rally, including the Domestic Caretakers Union, Hope Workers' Center, Awakening Foundation and Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel