Protesters in Taiwan occupied railway tracks at a train station on Monday evening in protest of controversial changes to labour regulations spearheaded by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party government.

The proposed relaxation of the Labour Standards Act would allow employees to work a maximum of 12 consecutive days, as opposed to six under the current law.

Protest against the Labour Standards Act amendments on Tuesday. Photo: Civil Media via Facebook.

The minimum time period between shifts would be reduced from 11 hours to eight, while the maximum allowed amount of overtime work would be increased to 54 hours per month.

Labour groups have criticised the amendments as stripping away workers’ rights. The opposition Kuomintang has joined forces with lawmakers from the New Power Party – of the same independence-leaning “pan-green” camp as the ruling Democratic Progressive Party – in resisting the bill.

The Taiwanese legislature began an extraordinary session last Friday to debate and pass the bill, which received preliminary approval from its Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee last December.

Hunger strike

Five New Power Party legislators began a hunger strike over the weekend outside the Taipei presidential office in protest, which they say lasted for 60 hours until they were cleared out by police in the early hours of Monday.

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Publié par 公民行動影音紀錄資料庫 sur lundi 8 Janvier 2018

That evening, around ten labour activists laid down on railway tracks outside Taipei Railway Station in protest, and were removed by police around an hour later.

Within the Legislative Yuan, lawmakers have attempted to negotiate details of the bill, with the New Power Party proposing to explicitly stipulate rights of employees to reject changes to overtime hours imposed by their employers.

Last month, President Tsai Ing-wen defended the amendments in a speech to her party, saying that they would not change the overall number of regular working hours, calculations of overtime payments, and the principle of two days’ rest per week.

Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Tsai Ing-wen via Facebook.

She said that the changes were necessary to allow for small and medium-sized companies – which provide the majority of employment in Taiwan – to undergo successful transitions.

“We hope to give employers and employees a degree of flexibility,” she added. “I have demanded that the administrative authorities strictly regulate and prevent any instances of overwork.”


Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.