Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ying, just minutes after convening the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, ended discussion of the Cabinet-proposed bill and called a vote.
The DPP’s majority carried the bill over the objections of opposition lawmakers.
The bill — which mandates one day off every week and another “flexible” day off, for which employees must be paid overtime wages if they work — will now enter cross-party negotiations.
Its passage triggered strong protests from opposition lawmakers in the committee, as well as from protesters gathered outside the Legislative Yuan.
Critics say the bill will not only elimate seven national holidays for private sector workers, but would also exacerbate Taiwan’s overtime work environment, in which employers already make it difficult for workers to use their existing leave.
At a recently held policy coordination meeting, President Tsai Ing-wen instructed the DPP caucus to ram the bill through the Legislature with an eye toward approval by year’s end.
Tsai had advocated for a review of the nation’s annual leave system to pave the way for mandatory two-day weekends.
Enraged Labor Groups
As lawmakers clashed over the bill during the committee meeting, protesters outside the Legislative Yuan pelted police with eggs.
Some members of the demonstrating labor rights groups were suspended from a steel frame, in an act to show that workers’ holiday rights were “hanging by a thread.”
The protesters accused the Tsai administration of pandering to employers by supporting the bill, saying that Labor Ministry figures showed the law would affect 9 million workers in Taiwan.
They also blasted the administration’s proposed review of the annual leave system and said that “unscrupulous employers” would prevent most workers from taking advantage of any government-mandated increase in the amount of leave.
The demonstration ended after protesters marched to the front gate of the Legislative Yuan and pelted eggs at police stationed there.
‘DPP lied to workers’
Early Wednesday morning, DPP lawmakers occupied the convener’s seat before Kuomintang lawmakers reached the meeting room, determined to prevent the meeting from opening.
KMT Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu told media that the DPP had changed the meeting’s location at the last minute in a bid to shake off opposition lawmakers and to ram through the latest labor law amendment.
In a press conference held after the meeting in the same room, KMT lawmakers said they strongly opposed the bill.
The bill in its current form would not allow for a mandatory two-day weekend and would have the effect of slashing seven statutory holidays, Lee said.
She decried the DPP’s actions as “rude and unreasonable” and said she had been physically lifted into the air in a melee during the committee meeting.
“The DPP has betrayed and lied to labor workers nationwide,” she said. “There were no public hearings, no review of the bill. The passage of the bill should not go into effect.”