by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Tianmu Peter/WikiCommons/CC
AN INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT in Miaoli provoked outrage in Taiwan last month, due to the low payout to the injured worker and the attitude of the employer.
In particular, a 28-year-old woman surnamed Wang working as a packer in a warehouse facility in Miaoli’s Toufen Industrial Park had her leg amputated after a fall which caused her leg to be caught in the rollers of a machine The accident occurred last year in November, but outrage over the case took place after a post on social media.
What has been outraging of the public was that according to Wang, her employer, a man surnamed Xie, commented that “It was only an amputation, you can walk with a prosthesis” after the incident. Xie also stated that he was only willing to pay Wang 100,000 NT in compensation and commented that Wang’s mother could walk after having a stroke. After making these remarks, Wang was apparently kicked out of the messaging app group where she was discussing the matter with her employer.
Public outrage took place after a photo of the victim along with text detailing the incident was posted on the Facebook page, 杜芬舒斯博士的邪惡企業2.0, which is normally devoted to circulating memes. The post, which dates from February 17th, stated Wang was originally recruited to the company as a clerical worker. Nevertheless, she was sent to work as a packer instead, reportedly without proper safety equipment or sufficient training, after being sent to fill several vacancies.
The post also indicated that this was not the first accident that had occurred to Wang, with Wang losing two teeth due to prior incidents. Wang is apparently also currently lacking in funds, but according to the moderator of 杜芬舒斯博士的邪惡企業2.0, she is hesitant to accept funds from strangers, as a result of which there has not been any donation fund set up for her.
After the post, video of the accident emerged, and Wang was interviewed by the media. She has sought to keep her identity out of the spotlight, however.
Facebook post about the incident by Zeng Wen-xue. Photo credit: Zeng Wen-xue/Facebook
The company that Wang was originally working at is the Sheng-an Transportation and Freight Company. Ten companies are registered in the name of the Xie father and son. As the companies are registered in Kaohsiung but the incident took place in Miaoli, this led to the intervention of Miaoli city councilor Zeng Wenxue and Kaohsiung city councilor Huang Jie, both independent youth politicians who were formerly part of the NPP. The Kaohsiung Department of Labor has also become involved in this case.
For its part, the Xie family claims to have paid for Wang’s treatment, and that this was the first time that their company experienced an industrial accident. The Xie family has also alleged that Wang originally requested 20 million NT compensation, suggesting greed on Wang’s part, and that it would guarantee Wang employment until age 65.
Yet the accident took place because safety equipment was not functioning at the Sheng-an plant, which was why equipment did not stop after Wang’s fall. Likewise, according to Zeng Wenxue, companies run by the Xie family have a history of violations, and reportedly kept Wang in the dark about that her mother had come to visit her at the hospital and instead told her that no family members had not come after the accident, resulting in misunderstandings between Wang and her family. Although the company claims to have 8,000 NT for medical expenses, 8,000 NT for hospitalization, and 360,000 NT for a prosthetic limb, according to Wang, this in fact came from Wang’s future salary, and other fees that the company claims to have paid came from insurance.
Sheng-an has been fined 450,000 NT by the Ministry of Labor and work for the company has been partially halted. The Xie family has denied wrongdoing. Wang reportedly does not wish to work for the company anymore and instead wishes to pursue other careers, such as becoming a professional artist of VTuber. Wang seems to be a fan of Japanese anime and a hobbyist artist.
The incident points to the weak enforcement of workplace safety and accident compensation in Taiwan. Likewise, the incident highlights how many companies are recruiting young people for one position, but then putting them into other positions that they did not apply for. Although the series of unfortunate events that befell Wang have received a great deal of public exposure, the incident only scratches the surface of such incidents–and in the case of industrial accidents that occur to non-Taiwanese, such as the migrant workers that staff many Taiwanese factories, they have even less recourse to seek compensation or otherwise to pursue justice against their employers. Whether Wang eventually sees justice remains to be seen.