Serve the People Association (SPA), Taoyuan and Migrante-Taiwan will hold a press conference in MECO Taipei on December 18, 2016. Why do we need to go to MECO for a protest-like press con?
It’s already stated in the press invitation, and will be included in the press release which we will spread tomorrow, too:
1. Stop to authenticate the Salary Affidavit which is contradicted to the Employment Contract.
2. Open the office on Saturday and Sunday so OFWs can go to MECO on their day off.
3. Junk UMID that’s only practiced in Taiwan.
4. Reduce the amount collected for Passport fee.
5. Stop the excessive placement fee and training fee from the Philippine agencies.
6. Control the lending companies and stop the long practice of usurious loan.
Among them, I want to have some explanation on the first, which is almost unknown to most of the migrant workers here, and this is one of the key issues that we will raise to MECO tomorrow: the discrepancy between the regulation on the employment contract and the salary affidavit.
Before any migrant worker come to Taiwan, they will have to sign two documents among others: Employment Contract and “Foreign Workers’ Affidavit for Wage/Salary and Expenses Incurred before Entering the Republic of China for Employment” (I’ll refer it as “salary affidavit” hereafter for short). Every migrant worker has to sign the two documents before they come, but unfortunately many migrants don’t even have a copy either one of the two documents, or more than often, both of the the two.
While the contract regulates the working condition (including working hours, salary, overtime payment, board and lodging, etc.) of the worker, the salary affidavit states the expenses the workers have to shoulder before and after they come to Taiwan to work, including the “legal” placement fee, training fee, photo and video fee, document fee, flight expense, etc. If a worker has a loan (of course we all know it’s the mostly illegal, but as natural as almost no one can be exempted from it placement fee), sometimes it will also be shown on it.
Both of the contract and salary affidavit have to be signed by both the employer and the worker, and both have to be authenticated by the Philippine government (the contract by MECO, and salary affidavit by POEA separately, but both represent the Philippine government, of course). So theoretically, the Philippine government review all contracts and salary affidavit before any OFW come to Taiwan to work and make sure all articles are legal, can protect the workers and won’t violate their rights.
We encounter many cases that it’s free for board and lodging on the contract for factory workers (for the factory workers, please read Article 4.1 on your contract) on the contract, but on the salary affidavit it says the worker has to pay. Even it is allowed for the employers of factories and fishing boats to collect board and lodging from the migrant workers, if the contract already states it’s free, then it should be free.
It’s so strange and ridiculous for me, because both documents have been stamped and authenticated by the Philippine government, so both are considered “legal” in a way, but yet the two are contradicted ti each other! Why’s so? If the Philippine government is caring enough for its citizens to demand free board and lodging for all factory OFWs on their contracts, why it also permits the employers to collect the same fee from them in the salary affidavit? And how we can solve the discrepancy and claim the rights for the workers?
The only reason the two documents are authenticated by the Philippine government is that after the reviewing and authentication by the Philippine government, the working condition and expenses included are “legal” and will protect the rights and welfare of the workers. So why the Philippine government can authenticate the contradicted documents?
Clearly, there can be only one version of the regulations regarding any working condition and expenses the workers need to pay, or there’s nothing we can take as the legal document. But amazingly, countless workers have the contradicted salary affidavit against their contracts.
Actually, not only us as NGOs and labor advocates who provide shelters and services to migrant workers are puzzled and confused by the contradicted documents, all the relevant employers, brokers and even labor officers are always confused by the mysterious double standards from the Philippine government.
Is there any other legal document that we can find as a clarification or order for this annoyed contradiction? Fortunately, yes! There has been a official letter from the then Council of Labor Affairs (CLA, now it’s called Ministry of Labor) on April 12, 2013 (Lao-Zhi-Guan No. 1010036916, or 勞職管字1010036916) which states clearly that whenever there’s a discrepancy between the contract and salary affidavit, the Taiwan government shall use the one which is in favor of the worker.
We fully support this statement and always use it to claim the expenses for the OFWs, and we believe that is the way the government should do to protect the workers, for all of know that the migrant workers usually don’t have any choice when they are given and demanded any documents to sign before they come to Taiwan or even during their employment. In many cases reported, they are not even given enough time to read the document, even it might be bilingual in Chinese and English.
Luckily, we won most of the cases, so most of the employers all over Taiwan paid back the board and lodging they collected from the workers before, the amount varies from a few thousands to several tens of thousands, depending on how long and how much they collected. In one case which the employer still refuse to pay back even after the suggestion from the Department of Labor in the local government, we help the worker to apply for the lawyer from Legal Aids Foundation. We hope we will also win this case, so it can be taken as an example in the court. Of course, as a labor NGO, we never take any single dollar from the workers from any cases: it’s their hard-earned money, and they surely deserve it, we just offer a helping hand and fight with them for their rights.
Speaking of the law, the employment contract should be the most fundamental and important legal document that regulates the working condition of the workers, any other documents with contradicted regulations shall be seen as invalid.
But surprisingly, in many mediation meetings, the brokers always claim that MECO officers told them the employers can charge the board and lodging as long as there’s a signed salary affidavit, even it violates to the contract. How can your government make such a statement in favor of the employers and workers? Why the Philippine government ignores and even supports such a rampant violation of the contract? It’s even worse than the statement from the Taiwan government! Even for me as a Taiwan citizen, it’s unbelievable and totally unacceptable.
I hope it’s a misunderstanding or just a lie from the brokers, so I really hope MECO officers can come out tomorrow to explain to us, and promise they they won’t authenticate any salary affidavits that violate the employment contract.
I have the question on this issue for a long time, it is the time we can raise it to MECO directly. I hope we can get a favorable answer tomorrow. This is one of the most important issues among others that we will ask MECO tomorrow. That’s why we will go to MECO and hold the press conference.
I know the issue of the contradicted affidavit against the contract is not so known or popular to the migrant workers, for it’s hard for yourselves to argue to the broker, employer or in the labor office. But based on our experience, we can win it. I hope MECO officers can be more responsible to this issue and give us a clear answer and promise us that the Philippine government will continue the free board and lodging for factory workers on one hand, and that it will never authenticate the salary affidavit violating the contracts.
Furthermore, I will also ask the MECO officers to review the working condition of the fishermen and also demand for free board and lodging for the OFW fishermen. It is really too ridiculous to collect up to NTD5.000 from the migrant fishermen per month for the board and lodging, for they can only sleep on the ships, and very often there’s not even beds for them. It is really a ridiculous joke to demand for the up to NTD5,000 board and lodging fees from the migrant fishermen.
That’s it. If you support the demands we raise, please join us tomorrow. See you there!
Lennon Ying-Dah Wong
Director, Service Center and Shelter for Migrant Workers, Serve the People Association (SPA), Taoyuan