Allegations of mistreatment and abuse of migrant workers surfaced with a Vietnamese woman saying she was paid less than NT$2,500 (US$75) a month, while a social worker said two Filipino laborers recently died of overwork.
Two migrant workers related their sad experience working in the country in a press conference held by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Joanna Lei. "I have been sold [by brokers] to six different employers since coming to Taiwan and my identification card has been confiscated," said "A-ming," an alias used by a caretaker from Vietnam. Weeping, A-ming said she could hardly survive on her meager salary of NT$2,500 per month, not to mention repay her broker's fee and send money back home.
The caretaker came to Taiwan as a migrant worker through the introduction of a legitimate broker, but she was asked to work for employers who have no permit to hire foreign caretakers. "They told me that I can't go out, saying that I would be seized by the police, and asked me to work every day. The work is hard," she said.
Lee Li-hua, a social worker with the Catholic Hope Workers Center, said at the press conference that two Filipinos who were hired to work in a paper factory in Taoyuan County recently died of overwork. Lee also added that the Filipino workers were forced to work more than 16 hours a day and were not allowed any days off in an entire year.
In an annual report on global human trafficking released by the US State Department in June 2006, Taiwan was downgraded to the "Tier 2 Watch List" for failing to increase its efforts and lacking the political will to address the problem. The US report also said that a "significant share" of foreign workers, mainly from Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, who are lured to the country for low-skilled jobs, end up in forced labor or slavery by labor agencies and employers.
"The foreign labor broker's system has a lot to do with the trafficking problem in Taiwan," Lei said, urging the government to abolish the broker system. While the Council of Labor Affairs has said that brokers are allowed to charge the worker's first month's salary as the broker's fee, Lei said that "this is not the real situation." "I know that some migrant workers use the first three months of their salary to pay their brokers. Some even pay up to 20 months of their salary," Lei said. "Many brokers also `detain' the migrant workers' identification cards on the pretext that this is a safeguard to prevent them from running away," Lei said.Adapted from: "Migrant workers relate stories of abusive system." Taipei Times. 18 October 2006.
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