Two Vulnerable Groups Enter into Irreconcilable

2006-11-25 - torrent

Proof by Owlam and JC Chen

In Taiwan, efforts to improve the labor standards of foreign homecare workers and maids have been met with consistent controversy and resistance by advocates for disabled people. The interests of these two groups have been falsely cast as irreconcilable. There are 150,000 foreign maids in Taiwan. Many of them provide long-term care for disabled persons. However, these workers are not protected by any labor law.

Government regulation and protection is complicated by the fact that the conditions live-in maids face are largely invisible to the public. Behind the closed doors of the household, maids and care workers face many hardships such as extremely long hours, poor living conditions, and abuse by employers. Workers are also often forced to work extra jobs outside of their official contracts with no additional pay. It results in some household violence cases, such as maids committing suicide or assaulting the employers

The Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA; 台灣國際勞工協會) and other foreign labor NGOs founded the Promotion Alliance for the Household Services Act (PAHSA; 家事服務法推動聯盟) to make foreign maids eligible for coverage under the Labor Standards Law (LSL; 勞基法) or to provide protection through a new Household Service Act. However, they have faced strong protests by the Alliance for Handicapped People (AHP; 殘障聯盟).

Over 50 members of the AHP last Wednesday gathered in front of the office of the cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (CLA; 勞委會) to oppose the Council's plans to bring foreign maids under the umbrella of the Labor Standards Law.

Lin Jin-shing, the President of the AHP, said: "If foreign maids are eligible for protection under the LSL without effective complementary measures, like a long-term care system by the government, how can we all continue to live on?"

TIWA members responded, stating that the AHP should not encourage internecine conflict between the interests of foreign maids and the disabled community.

Lin also said that if foreign maids employed to handle household jobs were placed under the protection of the LSL, employers would have to shoulder extra monthly payments of at least NT$10,000 for overtime services, retirement pension reserves and occupational hazards liability insurance. "It is wrong to sacrifice the welfare of handicapped people for the sake of migrant workers' human rights." Lin said.

TIWA emphasized that PAHSA has always been concerned for the welfare of disabled people. PAHSA has attempted negotiation with AHP many times, but AHP has refused meetings over the past few months. TIWA wants AHP to rethink its stance, emphasizing that by depending on cheap care by foreign maids under poor working conditions, AHP is actually removing incentives for the establishment of the proposed Long-term Care System.

When receiving the AHP petitioners, the CLA announced they cannot revise the LSL to cover foreign maids in a way that can safeguard the interests of both employers and employees, and have thus decided to suspend any consideration of these reforms.

TIWA said they can understand AHP's concerns. However, TIWA also feels that AHP should cooperate with the PAHSA to pursue the intermediate solutions, such as providing respite care which would give breaks for foreign maids providing primary care to disabled persons.

Other articles(Chinese):

2005/11/10 弱弱相殘為家事服務法的阻力?
2006/10/08 弱弱相殘何時了?
2006/11/22 家事外勞納入勞動法令保障 殘障團體抵制

18 4月19:31

It's amazing to read

By hoidick

It's amazing to read this
Submitted by ahchoii on Tue, 2006-11-28 17:32.

It's amazing to read this story, but it also reminds me of the situation in HK. Back in the 70's when only the rich can afford employing domestic helpers, division of domestic chores between husband and wife was a main issue when the Chinese feminists began to fight for gender equality. But this issue had never been truly dealt with because more and more families were employing migrant women as domestic helpers as the HK government artificially kept down the wage level of migrant domestic helpers.

I remember in the 80's Taiwan feminists had opposed allowing the import of domestic helpers arguing that men would never learn to share housework if cheap domestic help became easily available. I had never imagined that it would be a scenario of disabled people opposing the improvement of migrant worker's working conditions!