'Mainland workers' rights should be protected'

By Chen Xin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-04-14 08:01
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BEIJING - A senior labor union leader in Taiwan is urging Taiwanese enterprises that have invested in the mainland to better protect workers' rights.

"Enterprises from Taiwan should adhere to the mainland's labor laws to guarantee that workers' rights are well-protected," Huang Ho Tsai-feng, director general of the Taiwan-based Cross-Straits Labor Development and Exchange Association, told China Daily at the sidelines of the 2011 Cross-Straits Labor Union Forum.

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Her remarks came after a series of suicides and illnesses occurred in Taiwanese companies.

Last year, a dozen employees of a plant in South China's Guangdong province committed suicide. They had worked for Foxconn, a Taiwanese maker of electronic devices.

In February, 137 workers at the Suzhou factory of Wintek, a touchscreen supplier of Apple Inc, suffered from an exposure to n-hexane, a chemical found in cleaning agents used in some manufacturing processes.

Huang Ho Tsai-feng said the suicides of the Foxconn employees drew an immediate condemnation from Taiwanese labor unions, which in response called for the protection of workers' rights in both the island and the mainland.

The labor activist said she has pity for those who suffered in both cases and hopes steps will be taken to prevent such misfortunes from recurring.

Employers in Taiwan who do not properly deal with labor disputes will face serious consequences. For one, the local authorities will not give them approvals to enlarge the size of their businesses. Such penalties should also apply to Taiwanese investors who put their money into the mainland, she said.

Speaking at the forum, Wang Yupu, vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the top union organization in the mainland, said labor unions in both the mainland and in Taiwan should work closely together to ensure that good relations exist between Taiwanese employers and mainland laborers, as well as between mainland investors who put money into Taiwan and Taiwanese laborers.

More than 80,000 Taiwanese enterprises are running businesses in the mainland. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions plans to set up labor unions in 95 percent of those companies by 2013 and to ensure such unions are strong enough to protect workers' rights.

Zhong Xiaomi, deputy head of Hunan Provincial Federation of Trade Unions, said there are nearly 2,000 Taiwanese enterprises in Hunan province and nearly 85 percent of them employ a union workforce.

"A number of labor disputes and incidents result from the absence of a labor union," he told China Daily. "Without a union, negotiations between employers and workers, or settlements of disputes, will be inefficient."