08/24/2005, 00.00
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Thai workers revolt in Taiwan

The workers are paid by 'substitute money' valid only in a few shops owned by the company which employs them; those working late are denied their dinner.

Taipei (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Around 300 workers of Thai nationality set fire to some buildings in Kangshan in southern Taiwan on 21 August, during a night-time protest linked to their living conditions. The men, employed in the construction of the Kaohsiung subway, lament "unreasonable rules" in their living quarters. During the protest – which lasted 17 hours – the men set fire to houses and cars and used slings to pelt with stones police called to intervene.

The workers spoke of the "unjust and inhuman" management of the manpower agency which recruited them to work. "Not only are we not allowed to use mobile phones at the dormitory, we are required to use their so-called substitute money, which can only be used at the shops run by the management company," said one worker. Products at the shops were more expensive than at those off site, he said. Workers are not allowed to drink in dormitories and their food and drink is withdrawn if they come in late: the punishment is applied even to those made to work overtime.

The revolt was placated by an agreement reached between the workers, the manpower agency and the Kaohsiung City Mass Transit Bureau. ""They agreed to return to work after the management company promised to ease the rules, including allowing them to use mobile phones at the dormitory site, supplying food and water after they return from night work at 10pm and providing Thai TV programmes," said Fang Lai-chin, director of the Kaohsiung Labour Bureau, which was asked to mediate in the dispute.

The vice-chairman of the Labour Affairs Council, Lai Ching-lin, said workers found to have instigated the riot would be deported. He also said that the Transit Bureau was denied permission to employ another 800 workers for "not respecting basic work regulations".

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