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3,000 rally against workweek bill

Organizers from the 123 League, a national coalition of labor unions, said that at least 3,000 people participated in the march, which began outside DPP headquarters before ended at the Legislative Yuan’s main gates.

Protesters lobbed eggs at the legislature building while police stood by, protected from the volley by a large plastic sheet.

The demonstrators tacked flyers to the gate and to nearby trees, accusing legislators of forcing the bill through via a “black-box” operation and describing President Tsai Ing-wen as “authoritarian.”

Tainan Confederation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Huang Yu-te warned that if lawmakers pushed the bill into a second or third reading on the floor, it would lead to hunger strikes.

A group from the protest later scaled a barrier at the Legislative Yuan’s side gate and entered the grounds, before spray painting the building’s walls. They were forcibly removed following a two-hour standoff with police.

The demonstrators are demanding that lawmakers send the bill back to committee, hold public hearings and retain the 123 days off currently mandated for workers each year.

The government-sponsored revisions to the Labor Standards Act seek to implement two mandatory days off per week.

But the bill has drawn the ire of workers, who say the amendments would see the elimination of seven current statutory public holidays.

Lawmakers Voice Support

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislators Johnny Chiang, Lee Yen-hsiu, Arthur Chen and Chiang Wan-an spoke to the demonstrators outside the Legislative Yuan, with the group promising to send the bill back to committee for review.

“The Legislature is not operated by the Democratic Progressive Party,” Chiang said, a statement that was met with chants of support from the protesters.

The opposition legislators reiterated past criticisms over the DPP’s pushing of the bill through the Legislature’s Health and Welfare Committee on Oct. 5, saying they did not abide by legal procedures.

The People First Party and DPP caucuses both failed to send representatives to meet with the demonstrators.

Trade Union of Electrical, Electronic and Information in Taiwan representative Huang Song-ju told The China Post that the standard working day is set at eight hours, yet technical engineers in Taiwan often work 10-hour days.

“Our main demand is rejecting the elimination of seven mandatory holidays,” he said.

Huang said that previously, when the standard working hours were set at 84 hours every two weeks, workers often needed to “pay back” their employers by working an extra half day outside of the regular workweek.

These “make-up days” would often fall on holidays, effectively negating them, Huang said.

“Now that Taiwan has implemented a 40-hour workweek, workers do not owe their employers a half a day off work; therefore, laborers should reserve the right to keep the seven mandatory holidays.”