Taipei, March 14 (CNA) After a county magistrate openly decried the new work rules, several local chiefs have followed suit in voicing their opposition and calling for complementary measures.
Nantou Magistrate Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) of the opposition Kuomintang expressed strong opposition to the new work rules Tuesday amid reports that he has asked his staff to study whether it is possible for the county "not to put the rules into practice."
Lin said that the new rules have created a losing situation for workers, employers and consumers.
He noted that for many years, Nantou, a county that relies heavily on tourism, has operated on flexible work schedules.
The new rules went into force on Dec. 23 last year after legislators from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party passed amendments to the Labor Standard Act in the face of opposition parties' refusal to participate.
Under the new work rules, the total maximum number of working hours has been reduced to 40 hours per week from 84 hours every two weeks, and workers are now entitled to one mandatory day off and one "flexible" rest day per week -- measures that could increase operating costs for employers.
Employers have to pay higher overtime if they ask employees to work on their "flexible" day off and must provide a day in lieu, as well as overtime, to employees who are required to work on their mandatory day off.
Taitung Magistrate Justin Huang (黃健庭) said the county has to abide by the law, but pointed out that tourism is a major industry for the county and that the new work rules have indeed impacted local businesses. He urged the central government to work out more feasible complementary measures to end the controversy.
Hualien Magistrate Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) strongly suggested that the central government should "put the new work rules on hold for five years amid the sluggish economy."
When the economy is robust enough, the government can consider putting them into practice, so that Taiwanese businesses and grassroots laborers can have some breathing space, Fu suggested.
He said that irrespective of whether it is Nantou, Hualien or any other cities or counties, the new work rules cannot be put into effect because "the truth is that no businesses can shoulder such a major cost increase in a slow economy."
Hsinchu Magistrate Chiu Ching-chun (邱鏡淳) said that as a technological stronghold, the new work rules have "had a big impact" on the high-tech industry.
Chiu said that he has been informed that after the new work rules were implemented, local and foreign workers have seen overtime pay cuts, and a lot of foreign workers are now wanting to return to their home countries because they are not earning as much as they expected to earn.
Acting Yilan Magistrate Wu Ze-cheng (吳澤成) said that "it is not possible" not to implement the law, but added that the biggest problem with the new work rules is that they cannot be applied to every trade, and are not sufficiently flexible.
Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (賴清德) said that his city's approach is to give counseling on the changes to employers first and will not immediately punish those who fail to comply.
Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) called for complementary measures to the new work rules, and for the views of industry and workers to be taken into consideration.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said that there is a grace period for implementing the new rules and that local chiefs should not lead illegal activities. He warned that his Cabinet will deal with related legal issues if the local governments turn their words into deeds.
(By Sophia Yeh and Lilian Wu)