2013-2015

Foreign Workers’ Personal Documents and Salary Withheld by Employer

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Eleven Indonesian workers were reportedly being subject to ill treatment by their employer at a factory in Taoyuan County (now Taoyuan City). The workers were hired through a recruitment agency to operate cotton drawn work machine, do packaging work, and load and transport goods on the factory site. They work at least twelve hours a day and are underpaid. Their passports and resident certificates have allegedly been withheld by their employer. (Case No. 1030831652)

In April 2012, the complainant sought help from the Hope Worker’s Center run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hsinchu. Later in the month, the local police conducted a survey at the factory and found all eleven foreign workers to be victims of human trafficking. After relocating the workers to the Immigrant and Foreign Laborer Service Center in Hsinchu Parish for placement, the case was submitted to the Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office (the Office) for further investigation. The prosecutor at the Office being assigned to the case found no evidence of forced bondage or exploitation. Nor was there violation of Paragraph 1 of Article 32 of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. The foreign workers had provided written consent to have their passport and resident certificate withheld by the employer. Although slightly underpaid, the workers were given payment for overtime on top of their minimum wage of 17,880 or 18,780 NT dollars. For the reasons above, the prosecutor decided that the case was a labor dispute regarding wage, overtime payment, and how the employer pays. As such the prosecutor only asked for damage compensation and a settlement. The case was closed after the workers received their paychecks and agreed to not press charges. No actions were brought against the employer.

In examining the complaint, the Control Yuan noted that the employer has unnecessary withheld the complainant’s personal belongings, delayed payment, overtime without pay, and contractual changes. However, considering the common practices, the prosecutor’s decision to not press charges complies with the empirical rule and the rule of evidence; therefore it complies with the law and should be respected. With regard to the employer’s actions as described above, the Control Yuan has called on the Ministry of Labor to monitor this case and hold the persons involved accountable. As for preventing and identifying trafficking, the Ministry of the Interior has failed to identify problems within current practices, conduct professional on-the-job staff training, or set up criteria to determine if personnel has “undergone relevant professional training”, as in accordance with Article 7 of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act.
In response to Control Yuan’s investigation, the Ministry of Labor has issued fines to the company at fault: twenty thousand NT dollars for violating the Labor Standards Act; thirty thousand NT dollars for giving the foreign workers extra work beyond the scope of the contract, sixty thousand dollars for illegally withholding personal belongings and changing the contract without the workers’ consent, and sixty thousand NT dollars for violating the Employment Service Act. The Ministry of Labor again discovered forced overtime without pay during some random follow-up inspections on the plant site. The Control Yuan has called on the Ministry of Labor to provide updates on subsequent handling. The recruitment agency was also in the wrong for failing to ensure proper employment conditions for the foreign worker. The Taoyuan County Government (now Taoyuan City Government) has issued a fine of sixty thousand NT dollars to the employer. As for “relevant professional training”, the onus is upon the relevant competent authorities to set up criteria that define such training according to their respective duties, organization, and annual budget. The Control Yuan has requested the Executive Yuan to continue conducting staff training and provide a year-end report of all the trainings conducted throughout the year.
As the case is not yet closed, the Control Yuan will follow up on further improvements and result made by the Executive Yuan and the Ministry of Labor.