Fri, 11 Apr 2003

NGO reports exploitation of RI migrant workers in Taiwan

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A non-governmental organization claimed on Thursday that the majority of Indonesian migrant workers (TKIs) in Taiwan were abused and urged the government to take necessary measures to end their agony.

Peter O'Neill, director of the Taiwan-based Hope Worker's Center (HWC), said most Indonesian workers in Taiwan were not aware of their rights and thus did not report when their rights were violated.

Indonesian workers in Taiwan number 88,116, accounting for 28.87 percent of total migrant workers in Taiwan.

TKIs have to pay large placement fees to the Indonesian brokers (PJTKI) who secure work for them.

"On top of that, working hours imposed on Indonesian domestic helpers are exploitative, reaching on average 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week," O'Neill said at a media conference held by the Center for Indonesian Migrant Workers (CIMW) and the HWC at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration on Thursday.

O'Neill alleged that brokers trimmed NT$118,635 (about US$3,300) from a domestic helper's or caretaker's salary over a three-year contract period, against the official amount of NT$66,000. In comparison, the Philippines charges NT$24,000 as a placement fee.

At a meeting with manpower and transmigration officials on Thursday, the HWC urged the government to hire and send TKIs to Taiwan directly and to be more active in protecting the rights of workers and change regulations and contracts in order to protect workers' rights.

Coupled with other fees levied by the Taiwanese government, the sum paid by a migrant worker reaches at least NT$200,195 over three years.

Sumarjono, director of protection for workers at the ministry, said that the government was fully aware of markups by Indonesian brokers.

"So, we have been investigating PJTKIs that violate the rules. We will revoke the licenses of those proven to have marked up the fees," he said.

As for the demand for the government to hire and send TKIs itself, Sumarjono said the government had considered it but concluded that Indonesia, unlike the Philippines, was not ready to run such a program.

"We still need private sector assistance in recruiting migrant workers," he said without elaborating.

The NGO said that some brokers treated workers inhumanely prior to their departure to Taiwan and that many workers were sexually abused by their employers.