《TAIPEI TIMES》 Foreign workers’ dormitories need to be safe: report

2018-12-06 03:00

By Chung Li-hua, Lee Ya-wen and Sherry Hsiao / Staff reporters, with staff writer

The Control Yuan’s Committee on Financial and Economic Affairs yesterday approved proposals made in an investigative report by two of its members that called for measures to safeguard the dormitory living conditions of foreign migrant workers.

Committee members Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲) and Wang Mei-yu (王美玉) said that corrective measures should be taken against the Ministry of Labor, the Construction and Planning Agency and the National Fire Agency, which they said had overlooked unsafe conditions in migrant workers’ dorms, many of which are located inside the factories where they work.

As of the end of October, there were more than 700,000 migrant workers in Taiwan, the report said.

During an unannounced inspection, Wang Yu-ling and Wang Mei-yu found that none of the 13 dormitories inspected completely met the regulations, it said.

However, the ministry has never revoked a permit for contraventions of fire or construction regulations at housing for foreign workers, the report said.

In one instance, 133 workers were living in a dorm with a maximum capacity of 90 people, it said.

The ministry had previously required employers to provide proof the dorms were legal, but the ministry removed this requirement in 2008 because it was unable to verify dorm conditions, it said.

However, after the requirement was removed, it did not establish a platform for reporting or verifying living conditions with the fire or construction agencies, or educate the inspectors on fire and construction regulations, it said.

The Construction and Planning Agency and the National Fire Agency have never created an ad hoc plan for inspecting the workers’ housing conditions, nor do they report the results of dormitory inspections to the labor agencies, it said.

The managing authorities for local governments do not control dormitory risks, nor do they ask the central government agencies to examine dormitories that might breach regulations, it said.

The ministry provides local governments with personnel to investigate problems related to foreign workers, but in 18 years, it has only reassessed this policy three times, the report said.

Although the number of consultants was increased to 336 in June, they cannot keep up with the growing number of foreign workers in the nation, it said.

Moreover, the ministry has not allocated consultants to cities and counties based on need, it said.

According to the ministry’s calculations, more than 90 percent of foreign migrant workers live in housing provided by their employers, the report said, adding that more than 50 percent of the employers collect a fee from the workers for housing and meals.

Employers are responsible for providing comfortable and safe living conditions, but the authorities have weakened the employers’ legal responsibility by neglecting to strictly enforce the law, it said.

The Control Yuan said it has asked the Executive Yuan to oversee efforts by the ministry and the two agencies to implement improvements.

Asked about dormitories being separate from factories, Vice Minister of Labor Lin San-quei (林三貴) said they are governed by Ministry of Economic Affairs regulations.

The two ministries would need to consult with each other if amendments were needed, he said.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs’ regulations do not require that factories and housing be separate, he said.

Some local workers also live in dormitories on factory sites, he added.

The labor ministry has previously discussed with other agencies the content and direction of amendments to regulations that manage the living conditions of foreign workers, Lin said.

Discussions are in their final stages, and the labor ministry would propose amendments promptly, he said, adding that it must still consult with employer associations and other groups.

The fire and construction agencies and local governments would continue to ensure the safety of dormitories for migrant workers, he added.


Columns at the entrance of the Control Yuan in Taipei are reflected in a pond in an undated file photograph.
Photo: Chung Li-hua, Taipei Times

    Columns at the entrance of the Control Yuan in Taipei are reflected in a pond in an undated file photograph. Photo: Chung Li-hua, Taipei Times

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