July 16-22, 2012
General Assembly News
PCT urges Taiwanese employers to be compassionate and reasonable with migrant workers
Reported by Hsu You-chuan
Written by Lydia Ma
PCT’s Labor Concern Center in Kaohsiung has been reaching out to migrant workers for many years now, advocating for their human rights and doing all it can to ensure that these foreign workers in Taiwan are not mistreated or abused. Besides weekly outreach meetings with migrant workers at local parks, the Labor Center also conducts seminars to raise awareness among employers and holds international worship services on Sundays to meet the spiritual needs of migrant workers.
According to the director of the Labor Center, Chien Chang-jung, most migrant workers in Taiwan these days come from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Philippines. Their first few months living in Taiwan can be very difficult because they need to pay back their agents in Taiwan and at home, besides sending money back to their family.
Sadly, some Taiwanese employers not only ask them to work more than 16 hours a day, but also refuse to pay them when they have to work overtime. Some women who come to Taiwan as caregivers have even experienced sexual and physical assault while on the job and others have been denied the right to use the telephone. There have also been cases of employers seizing and hiding their employee’s passports as a means to coerce employees. For many foreign workers who are still indebted to their agents and therefore cannot afford to lose their jobs, such a predicament is akin to modern-day slavery.
Chien said that there was a young woman who worked as a caregiver in Taiwan and was falsely accused by her employer of stealing. The employer chased her and beat her and during the course of this fight, the young woman ran and slipped and became paralyzed from the waist down. When representatives of the Labor Concern Center came, they discovered that the employer had forbidden this young woman from using the phone. However, this young woman secretly got her own cellphone in order to remain in contact with her family. This tragedy happened because her employer mistakenly thought she was stealing something when she was attempting to hide her cellphone. This young woman later went to the Labor Concern Center where people cared for her and some women migrant workers even raised funds on her behalf to help her get back to her home country.
Chien also said that many migrant workers come to the Labor Concern Center looking for help and for a temporary stay for various reasons, including the death of an employer, abuse by an employer, company closure, etc. Besides offering timely help at such times, the center also holds Sunday services in various languages. Prayers and singing worship songs in Indonesian, Vietnamese, English, and other languages helps comfort these migrant workers.
Labor Concern Center exhorts all Taiwanese employers to sympathize with the struggles of migrant workers because it is a challenge to work in Taiwan and learn a different culture and language. It urged Taiwanese employers to have more patience, give more freedom and dignity, and be more willing to teach. Chien said that the center will continue to offer seminars to help employers learn how to treat and interact with migrant workers.