Migrant Workers March: Government takes responsibility, intermediaries get lost!


Shouting "Government takes responsibility, intermediaries get lost!" Migrant Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT) organized its biennial migrant worker parade on December 10th at 1 p.m. This year's theme, "No justice in cross-border employment, where is the government's responsibility?" accuses the government of allowing intermediaries to monopolize the market, causing harm to both employers and migrant workers. The demand is for the government to take responsibility for cross-border employment and abolish the private intermediary system.

Approximately 500 people participated in the parade. The procession started at the "Direct Employment Joint Service Center of the Ministry of Labor" located in Ximending. The route passed through Hankou Street, Guanqian Road, Taipei Main Station, Civic Boulevard, Zhongshan North Road, and Nanjing East Road, concluding at the Ministry of Labor on Songjiang Road by 4 p.m.

The organizing committee featured a giant puppet called "Mr. Government," lying on a medium-sized truck with a blindfold, symbolizing the government's 31 years of pretending to be asleep and completely ignoring any shouts from migrant workers. The puppet was continuously struck by 32 "big hands," symbolizing the hope of migrant workers, civic groups, and Taiwanese laborers to wake up the government.

Commissioner Hsu Wei-Tung from the Taiwan International Workers Association stated that the government should bear the responsibility of abolishing the private intermediary system and providing adequate public services for migrant workers. He pointed out that every time the Ministry of Labor faces questioning from civic groups about the illegal practices of private intermediaries, their response is only, "There are direct employment centers providing diverse employment channels." However, there is only one direct employment center in Taipei, and it can only assist with "domestic direct employment," completely unable to help migrant workers in any procedures from their home countries to Taiwan. Additionally, while private intermediaries allow employers to bring in migrant workers at a low cost, direct employment centers require employers to navigate different government agencies, essentially reducing their role to "document collection."

Liu Xiaoying, the director of Hsinchu Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Center (HMISC), criticized the Ministry of Labor for consistently adopting an attitude of "as long as there is evidence, penalties will be imposed" regarding private intermediaries illegally collecting recruitment fees. This places the burden of proof on the victimized migrant workers, resulting in the clearly prohibited practice of collecting "buying labor fees" becoming a market norm.

Furthermore, Liu Xiaoying pointed out that in 31 years, the government has not provided any substantial public cross-border and on-site job-seeking services. Government units related to migrant workers, including the Immigration Agency, Labor Insurance Bureau, and National Health Insurance Administration, have yet to offer multilingual services. This allows private intermediaries to continue to dominate the market without interruption. Even employers who want to use direct employment services might be extorted for redemption fees by intermediaries.

There were also expressions of support from civil groups in Japan and South Korea. Representatives from the Foreign Workers Labor Support Center in Japan (POSSE), the Chairperson of the STU Metal Union Seoul Industrial District Branch (STU), and the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) shouted slogans on the truck, such as "Abolish the private intermediary system" and "Workers of All Countries, Unite!"

The parade concluded at the Ministry of Labor on Songjiang Road, with speeches in Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, and Vietnamese. The band "Southern Riot," composed of Indonesian migrant workers from Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung, performed a song they wrote for the parade called "Love Song from Indonesian Migrant Workers" (Lagu Cinta Dari BMI). The lyrics express the feelings of being neglected and silenced due to intimidation, urging a stand against the enslaving system.

Secretary-General Huang Tzu-Hua of the Domestic Caretaker Union (DCU) stated that in Taiwan's 31 years of importing migrant workers, all management costs have been transferred to the workers through the intermediary system. Employment opportunities for migrant workers are monopolized by intermediaries, and from before their arrival to after their arrival in Taiwan, migrant workers are continually charged various legal and illegal fees, such as "buying labor fees." The Ministry of Labor turns a blind eye, requiring migrant workers to provide evidence for complaints, which is as difficult as proving sexual harassment. The fundamental issue is that the Ministry of Labor has not presented an effective public matchmaking mechanism to help migrant workers escape the control of intermediaries and break the monopoly of the job market. "The Ministry of Labor is like a person pretending to be asleep, impossible to wake up!"

Huang Tzu-Hua said that the migrant worker parade has been held for 11 years, urging everyone not to give up even when tired because the intermediary system oppresses migrant workers. Without resistance, the situation cannot be changed.

In response to the parade, the Ministry of Labor stated that the current channels for importing migrant workers are diverse, and employers can choose according to their needs, including self-importation, introducing from abroad through direct employment center projects, or entrusting intermediaries to handle the introduction of migrant workers. The ministry believes that the methods of introducing workers should return to market mechanisms.

The Development Bureau explained that since July of this year, it has actively conducted special inspections on migrant workers changing employers. By the end of December, it will complete inspections of 263 intermediary companies to understand whether they have illegally collected buying labor fees. As of the end of November 112, nine intermediary companies have been fined, with penalties ranging from 10 to 20 times the excessive amount and suspension of business for up to one year. The Ministry of Labor urges migrant workers and employers to immediately dial the 1955 hotline to complain if they encounter intermediary companies illegally collecting buying labor fees.

CivilMedia@TW / Reporter from reporters Wu Rongjing and Yang Juanru〕2023-12-11

〔photo from CivilMedia@TW