Last week, constitutional judges ruled that the right of female workers to refuse working night shifts was unconstitutional. The decision worries labor unions that female workers are losing bargaining chips on extra night shift subsidies, such as taxi expense reimbursements. Lawmakers are calling on the Ministry of Labor to revise laws as soon as possible.
A law that prevented employers from forcing women to work night shifts was declared unconstitutional by Taiwan's Constitutional Court. Article 49 of the Labor Standards Act says "An employer shall not make his/her female worker perform her work between ten o'clock in the evening and six o'clock in the following morning" without consent from a labor union or the approval of a labor-management conference. The article provides employees more bargaining power to fight for better wages and perks.For example, the media industry, which requires personnel to work around the clock, allows workers to charge nighttime taxi fees home to the company regardless of gender.
Cheng Ya-hui, Former FTV Union Chair:” If female employees work past 11 p.m., the company gives us a NT$200 transportation subsidy. As our office recently moved to Linkou, the company also subsidizes our transportation costs between Linkou and Taipei now.”
On Aug. 20, however, the Constitutional Court decided to void the law, citing Article 7 of the Constitution, which states that all citizens, irrespective of sex, shall be equal before the law. Unions are worried this may mean the end of transportation and night shift subsidies for female workers, and lawmakers are calling on the Ministry of Labor to revise laws.
Cheng Ya-hui, Former FTV Union Chair:” If the company tells me I can no longer charge taxi fees to the company, does that mean I have to pay the NT$700-plus myself?”
Lai Hsiang-ling, Legislator (TPP):” The Constitutional Court is advocating equality and progress with this ruling, which is an issue that would be very difficult to resolve through labor-capital negotiations. However, the result is that workers now have to accept whatever arrangements employers decide to go with.”
Tsai Ying-chieh, Section Chief, Ministry of Labor Department of Labor and Standards:” We will ask scholars and experts to weigh in as quickly as possible, and sort through the “constitutional interpretation.
The ministry says pregnant or breastfeeding workers can still say no to being put on the night shift and it will ask experts to weigh in on the ruling. Lai Hsiang-ling is calling on the ministry to draft amendments before the Mid-Autumn Festival and to establish a labor union subsidy platform.