Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Labors of Hu Coolies

More attempted movement on the Chinese labor front this week. As readers are aware, President Ma promised at his swearing-in that there would be no Chinese permitted to labor in Taiwan. Little by little he is nibbling away at that promise -- the latest being Chinese labor being permitted to work in fishing ports in restricted areas (previous post). In fact, what i going on looks a lot like a sustained campaign, and after seeing the last six months, it should be apparent that whatever Ma said in his speech he wouldn't do, he is going to do. Just take his promises as a road map in reverse...

Yesterday (18th) the Liberty Times had a headline that marked another milestone....


DPP legislative caucus yesterday strongly questioned the Executive Yuan Public Works Committee, "foreign companies to participate in non-treaty agreements procurement approach," added the amendment to Article VII, one of the provisions of the "Mainland companies have to act according to our participation Procurement, permitted the provisions of this approach, "China is on Taiwan's contract manufacturers to provisions from the public towards the prohibition of restrictions. Chinese manufacturers not only in the future, according to government contract work, and even low-cost manufacturers from Taiwan and the "panic marked" serious harm to the factory and the rights and interests of workers, poor quality of the project and will harm Taiwan people's lives and safety engineering.

Love that Google translation! What it says is that the Executive Yuan added a clause to the procurement laws which permits Chinese firms to bid on Taiwan government procurement. The DPP was up in arms about both the well-known quality of Chinese firms, and the labor threat...


The Green camp the future it will gradually enable Chinese skilled labor to be brought into Taiwan, clearly violating the Ma administration's political commitment not to bring in Chinese labor.

The construction industry association head cautiously chose not to comment on the rules since he hadn't seen them, but observed that he couldn't understand why the Ma government would do such a thing with the construction industry on the verge of death. The Public Construction Commission Chair said, when questioned by reporters, that it was impossible that Chinese firms would be permitted to bid on public construction in Taiwan, pointing out that not only would they have to qualify under existing public tender rules, but that they would also have to abide by the agreements made by Taiwan and China. It should also be noted that a process for enabling skilled Chinese labor to work in Taiwan already exists, erected by the DPP, but it is not much used...

Whether or not this law has any real effect its symbolic effect had many up in arms, including Ma supporters. Many local level KMTers are fed and watered by public construction contracts, and would be quite unable to compete with cut-rate Chinese firms. Hence there were complaints from KMT legislators as well. The DPP stressed that by breaking through previous restrictions with the new rule, the Ma administration need simply issue an executive order and Taiwan's public construction would now be open to Chinese firms.

Meanwhile, this week the Ma Administration returned to a old front to push further: the free trade zone at the airport. At first it looked like it would almost be a country unto itself, but the legislature shrank its size and removed some of the more odious clauses. Now the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) is asking that the ban on foreign laborers be lifted for the airport free trade zone...

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said on Friday that regulations governing the introduction of foreign laborers in free trade zones should be eased for one of the government’s 12 major infrastructure projects.

The ministry official was referring to the Taoyuan International Air City, which will include a free trade zone.

The ministry said it hoped that existing labor regulations in local free trade zones — such as a minimum wage, requirements that foreign laborers be limited to 40 percent of a company’s workforce and that Aborigines make up at least 5 percent — would not apply to the airport zone.

The official said the ministry had sent two versions of a draft statute governing the development of Taoyuan International Airport Park to the Executive Yuan for approval.

The first follows existing regulations and would enforce the cap on foreign workers and the payment of a minimum wage. The second said that in special cases companies could apply for exemptions and that the ministry and the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) would jointly screen their applications.

The idea was that the "foreign labor exemption" would be a trojan horse for the entry of Chinese labor into Taiwan. Note in the last two paragraphs how the application for exemptions is screened by MOTC and the CLA. If this goes the way screening processes in Taiwan usually go, then the vast majority of cases will be permitted.

Any way you slice it, it appears only a matter of time before Chinese labor is invited into Taiwan in quantity.


Boyd Jones said...

There are already plenty of Mainlanders in Taiwan working illegally. Think Latin Americans in the US. The DPP can't stop the flood methinks. Better to embrace immigrants?

Anonymous said...

So what's the difference exactly between Chinese and say... Thai / Malay / Phillipino / Indonisian workers again?

Taiwan IS using massive foreign labor anyway, not really because it's a ton cheaper (they are protected by law in terms of wages) but because there's simply not enough portion of the Taiwanese civilian that wants to work in the assembly lines.

obviously PRC onces would bring a slightly different twist since the language barrier would be a lot better. which has both it's pros (easier to communicate with) and cons (more likely to runaway etc..)then again, the Taiwanese public aint exactly loving the South Asians partying at the train station every weekend to say the least.

It wouldn't do the country any good for the factories to move abroad instead. foriegn labor is a neccesity in Taiwan, I'm not quiet sure why Ma and the KMT's original properganda said stuff about not letting Chinese workers in.

The only places able to hire Chinese workers these days are the fishing industries. and that's again because no one wants to fish anymore. (of course, this is also a enviormental issue... since you know, there's NO FRIGGIN FISH LEFT IN THE SEA)

Tommy said...

The issue is manifold anon. The lack of a language barrier is only a tiny part. This, combined with Chinese propaganda that says Taiwan is part of China, combined with the massive amount of available Chinese labour, combined with chronic unemployment in China, combined with the fact that China has a hostile government, combined with the tendancy of many Chinese to overstay their welcome in many countries all make opening the floodgates inadvisable. And where do you draw the line? Shall white-collar Chinese be able to compete with Taiwanese?

It is a slippery slope.

I personally think that many of these problems are surmountable with time. But the potential potholes are so many that years of study of the effects of opening even little corners of Taiwan should be undertaken first. Above all, rash decisions should be avoided at all cost. Unfortunately, the Ma administration seems impervious to careful action.

Anonymous said...

certainly, regulation would be a major issue and already is. having worked in a factory before and generally observed foreign workers, most of the issues that your talking about is hardly limited to Chinese foriegn workers.

I suppose to single biggest worry would be political sabotage and / or spies, though in truth I highly doubt this would is a major detrrent to begin with.

As for Ma's policies, if anything he's being pretty bad at getting what he wants done. the opening of tourist have been failing because there's still a mountain load of restrictions.