Daily Bloom is the shortform blog of New Bloom, covering breaking news events as they occur in real-time.
Labor demonstrations against loss of worker’s holidays continues, with a demonstration today that began at Freedom Plaza a 2 PM, marched past the Ministry of Education and Legislative Yuan, and ended near the National Development Council building at around 5 PM. The event was organized by “Worker’s Struggle” (工鬥) a coalition group of labor unions which is involved in organizing the yearly “Autumn Struggle” labor demonstration. Demonstrators numbered close to two thousand.
The beginning of the march
Though mostly members of labor unions, notably also a number of students also demonstrated despite the fact that this was finals week. On stage, before the start of the march, students at performed a skit about the dilemma of overworked, underpaid laborers now denied their holidays. Amusingly, at its starting point at Freedom Plaza, the march strangely coexisted with a KMT rally. Shortly after the start of the march, the author remembers seeing a woman from the KMT rally shout, “I’ll show them!” and then wave the ROC flag at passing labor demonstrators. That much may evince the KMT’s view of labor, lip service aside.
Workers on the move
When the march passed by the Ministry of Education, some demonstrators who had also been involved in the Ministry of Education shouted, “Wu Se-Hwa! Murderer!” As the march passed by the Legislative Yuan, demonstrators set off screechers attached to pieces of paper and threw them at the Legislative Yuan.
Outside the National Development Council building
At the culmination of the march, at the National Development Council building near the Presidential Residence, demonstrators carried out two actions. First, demonstrators tore to pieces a giant banner with emblazoned images of Tsai Ing-Wen, Eric Chu, and James Soong alike, the presidential candidates of the DPP, KMT, and PFP, which they had carried with them for the duration of the march. This was to represent that, regardless of who becomes the next president of Taiwan, all of the major parties in Taiwan have let down workers. Second, demonstrators threw smoke bombs in the direction of the presidential residence.
Demonstrators holding up the banner with images of Tsai Ing-Wen, Eric Chu, and James Soong. Chu is visible here. Shortly after, demonstrators tore the banner to pieces
As with past labor demonstrations, including a brief and dramatic occupation of the Ministry of Labor which took place on December 15th, the issue at hand is an amendment to the Labor Standards Act announced by the Legislative Yuan, which would limit the amount of maximum allowable work hours to per week to forty hours per week, with two days off per week as mandatory holiday. Previous legal regulations stipulated maximum allowable work hours of 84 hours per two weeks. However, the amendment also comes at the cost of seven days of public holidays for workers.
Workers throwing smoke bombs
And in this issue, all political parties have come under scrutiny from workers. Although the DPP, the probable victor of presidential elections, has promised labor reform—and at times suggested that workers should just be quiet until Tsai Ing-Wen is safely in power—Tsai Ing-Wen herself suggested in the past that Taiwan had too many public holidays. A DPP administration may not be any better than a KMT one where labor policy is concerned. So it was that this year’s “Autumn Struggle” labor demonstration culminated in front of DPP headquarters, in expectation that Tsai Ing-Wen would be the next president of Taiwan.
The Presidential Residence is visible in the background of the smoke
As workers’ voices are being drowned out at present by elections in Taiwan, it is thus that the past month has seen a wave of protest by workers in hopes of making their demands for rights heard. Today’s demonstration was another case in point.
Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Brian Hioe
Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is a former resident of Taipei, Taiwan.