China-based Taiwanese manufacturers should not require their Taiwanese employees to return to work before COVID-19 is sufficiently under control in China, a lawmaker said yesterday, adding that Taipei should implement stricter policies to ensure workers’ safety.
Policies for disease control in China are chaotic and nontransparent, posing an extreme health hazard to China-based Taiwanese workers, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hung Shen-han (洪申翰) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
Taiwanese who work in China should be protected by their companies and the government, Hung said.
Labor law experts have three categories for Taiwanese working in China: those sent by Taiwanese firms on short-term, task-based trips; people working long-term at a subsidiary of a Taiwan-based company that has control over the subsidiary’s management; and people working at a firm in China unrelated to Taiwanese firms, he said.
For the first category, the Civil Code grants legal grounds for an employee to refuse the task, while the government should broaden the authority it has to intervene, he said.
Article 483-1 of the Civil Code says: “The employee performs the services, under circumstances his life, body, health may be endangered, the employer shall prevent by necessary means according to such circumstance.”
People in the second category should have the right to reject the overseas transfer, and the Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Economic Affairs should prevent employees who do so from being discriminated against or mistreated, Hung said.
The government can give negative reviews for companies that fail to respect employees’ decisions, which would affect a firm that submits a bid for a government contract, or applies for tax privileges or loans, he said.
For the third category, while regulations in Taiwan have limited power over a Chinese firm, the Mainland Affairs Council should require the Straits Exchange Foundation to establish communication channels with Taiwanese employees at Chinese firms, so the foundation can get first-hand information and offer timely assistance when a default of contract or other unfair treatment affects a Taiwanese worker, he said.
Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-liam (孫友聯), who attended the news conference, said that the labor ministry should step up its efforts to inform employees that they are protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (職業安全衛生法), which states in Article 18 that when there is a threat of imminent danger at work, they “may terminate work of their own accord and withdraw to safe locations, and immediately report to their direct supervisors.”