Indonesian Migrant Workers Urge End to Exploitative Brokerage System


Indonesian migrant workers have repeatedly reported exploitation by brokers, with some paying over NT$500,000 in fees before coming to Taiwan. Others who wish to change jobs face threats of hefty fines, restricted movement, and withheld salaries. Yesterday, Gabungan Tenaga Kerja Bersolidaritas (GANAS) and Ikatan Pekerja Indonesia di Taiwan (IPIT) led dozens of Indonesian migrant workers in a protest at the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office in Taipei, demanding the abolition of the brokerage system and the implementation of government-to-government direct hiring.

Indonesian migrant worker Titin shared that she and her husband applied to work in Taiwan through a local brokerage company in Indonesia. To pay the brokerage fee of 280 million rupiah (about NT$560,000), they had to sell their land and take out a bank loan. After working in Taiwan for three months, Titin was dismissed, and the broker stated that if she insisted on staying in Taiwan, they would no longer assist her in finding work. She hopes the government will actively protect the rights of migrant workers.

Another Indonesian worker, Maesaroh, said she initially signed a contract to care for the elderly but was instead assigned to work on a farm. Her hands and back were injured from working with a shovel all day. When she tried to change jobs, the broker threatened her with hefty fines.

Maesaroh tearfully recounted that after calling the 1955 helpline for help, the broker canceled the fines but refused to let her find work through another broker, instead arranging for jobs with worse conditions. When she sought help from the Indonesian office, the broker restricted her movements and withheld her NT$8,000 salary, leaving her to question where the government that claims to protect migrant workers was.

GANAS called on the Taiwanese government to abolish the brokerage system and quickly implement "government-to-government direct hiring," allowing employers and migrant workers to recruit and find jobs through a government-established platform, preventing unreasonable treatment of migrant workers.

Wang Li-ting, a specialist at the Taiwan International Workers' Association, stated that the Employment Service Act stipulates that migrant workers cannot freely change jobs unless the employer breaks the law, the person they are caring for dies, or in similar circumstances. However, collecting evidence is difficult for migrant workers, making it hard to change jobs. Even when their contract ends, migrant workers have to pay brokers up to NT$80,000 in "job-buying fees."

Su Yu-kuo, the head of the Cross-Border Workforce Management Division at the Ministry of Labor, said that employers in domestic manufacturing, agriculture, and institutional caregiving can already recruit Indonesian migrant workers through the Direct Hiring Service Center. They are considering expanding this to more job categories. He emphasized that brokers are only allowed to charge service fees, and migrant workers can call the 1955 helpline to file complaints. Verified cases can result in fines of 10 to 20 times the illegal charges.

〔China Times / Reporter Cai Peijia〕2024-05-20 04:10

〔photo by Reporter Cai Peijia〕