i’ve been fired from many jobs these last three years for interceding on behalf of the philipino and indonesian workers i’ve met. Generally, the plight of the dark-skinned laborers is pretty dismal, even in the factories. It’s a simple case of unrepentant racism and elitism on the part of the Taiwanese bosses – because the workers are entirely alienated from the rest of society, the bosses are free to treat them as whimsically and cynically as they might ever wish on their other, native workers.
Even the ones in the factories suffer, although in some ways it’s less troublesome than the women employed as maids. Overcrowding and a complete denial of basic freedoms – mainly getting out of the factory onto the street – are pretty much what the factories are all about. I knew of one factory that had a single bathroom for something like fifteen or twenty workers, and another that had a single refrigerator per dorm-room, something like ten people who only got to go out to buy groceries once every two weeks. When their dorm supervisor – a really good Taiwanese guy, who later on married one of his charges – interceded on their behalf, he was basically told to shut up; he kept at it and got the changes through, but eventually quit in disgust. The workers hated him 'cause he was Taiwanese, and the management hated him ‘cause he took up for the workers’ rights.
There have been many troubles over the years with rioting factory/construction workers – i remember a big one in Taibei, i think, between a band of Indonesians and another of Thais. These problems are not new; eleven years ago i knew a guy from Nigeria who was basically locked in a factory for two solid years, saved up all his money and left with something like only three or four thousand American. There have been many cases of workers having their pay reduced for “dorm fees”, including things like a water bill, cot-space, and even the electricity they use at night to light their work by!
The maids, on the other hand, tend to have it much, much worse. Often the moneys being deducted from their checks are charges added on after they’ve arrived in Taiwan. This all started about six years ago, when the ministry of labor affairs decreed that none of the protective labor statutes apply to foreign laborers. As a result, the maids have absolutely no legal recourse to enforce their contracts. They get over here, have their passports confiscated, see additional “finders fees” added on to their debts, have their paychecks further reduced by unethical employers, and are typically disallowed from leaving the house or contacting other laborers from their country.
This is not so much the case in Taipei as it is in the rest of the island; i’m not sure about Gaoxiong, but i’m positive that this sort of treatment abounds in Tainan, and is pandemic elsewhere, as well. This is simply because Taipei is a much more cosmopolitan city, and the quality of employers here is much higher – having been more out of the country themselves, typically being wealthier and better-connected, and the population density being so great that it’s damned difficult to hide an abusive situation, the folks who work in Taipei are much, much better off than anywhere else on the island.
The Taiwanese are generally of two minds about this; one set will make excuses for the behavior (which, as hard as it is to imagine, they do generally believe) ranging from “Our lives are just as hard as theirs!” to “We’re doing it for their own protection!”, while the other group are typically just clueless about the subtleties of inviting a foreign domestic into one’s household, and are educated badly by the brokers.
Generally speaking, the root of all these troubles lies with the brokers – they are, unconditionally, the most disgusting, cretinous bunch of shit-eating scumbags on the planet. By way of explanation, i’ll just recite the situation that i last got fired over.
This was a Filipina who had been a high-school teacher in the Filipines. She had an opportunity to work at a community college, or come over to Taiwan to work as a foreign laborer. She chose Taiwan because the money was better, and the job that was advertised was that of English Teacher for grade-school children.
When she got here, she was immediately informed by her employer that her “accent was imperfect” (her employer couldnt’ speak a god-damned word of english) but, no worries, she’d be kept around the house. Then she discovered that she was to get up at 6:00 AM to prepare food for the kids and get them off to school. She was then to do housework until 10:00 AM or so, whereupon she would be shipped off to the bushiban. She then worked at the bushiban cleaning and such until about five in the afternoon, when she returned to the house to take care of the children until late in the evening. She typically did not get to sleep until 11:00 pm.
She was contractually not allowed a day off until the end of her first year, although she had received a verbal promise that she’d have “plenty of free time”, because the kids would be going off to school, she’d be around the house, etc. Obviously, she was lied to. Her passport was confiscated, her pay was regularly docked, the boss demanded of my manager to disallow her from speaking to me, etc. Nobody around her spoke english. The children at the bushiban generally ignored her, except for the children of the boss who treated her like little more than a dog, harboring absolutely no respect.
She was unable to leave the position, however – and would remain unable to do so until well into the second year – because she still owed her broker, who was charging her a few thousand american dollars for the “privilege” of his services. Meanwhile, she dared not take any action because, should she do so, she feared she would be fired and not have any means of finding employment anywhere else, since the broker would have a lien against any further employment she might seek abroad. So she tried to stick it out – 18 hours of work a day, nobody to speak to, no days off, and all for something on the order of 4 or 5 thousand dollars/year (after taking out the surcharges added on by her broker), IF she was able to stick out the entire contract.
This woman is, let me restate, not an extreme example. Filipinos in Hong Kong and elsewhere are well aware of the disgusting treatment their countrymen encounter over here, and if one makes it known that Taiwan is your residence this will be made quite evident in their comportment towards you.
The advice above, about contacting their nation’s cultural office, is the best. For Filipinas, that’d be MECO; they are the best source for information on what can and cannot be done legally, and can put one in touch with people who will be able to give you good advice. i don’t know what agency works for the Indonesian workers.
The post by blueface included this link, which basically says the same thing i just explained. It’s a really informative link, so i’ll post it again:
caramasia.gn.apc.org/Regional%20 … Taiwan.htm