Taiwan is sticking to its stance that Taiwanese employers should not share the recruitment costs for Indonesian migrant workers, as the Indonesian government is demanding, and will consider the possibility of bringing in workers from other countries instead, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said Wednesday.
The ministry was responding to a letter it received in October from the Indonesian representative office in Taipei, stating that from Jan. 1, 2021, Taiwanese employers would be required to pay 11 types of fees for Indonesian workers before they depart for Taiwan, including airfare and passport and visa processing fees.
The letter followed a decree by Indonesian Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah on July 29 that allowed the resumption of recruitment and placement of Indonesian migrant workers, after an eight-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commenting on the issue, Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) told reporters Wednesday that her ministry is mapping out a countermeasure but until negotiations with Indonesia are complete, it is not appropriate to speak about it in public.
Although Jakarta has asked that Taiwanese employers pay 11 types of fees involved in recruiting Indonesian migrant workers, it did not say how much extra the employers in Taiwan would have to pay, Hsu said, on her way to a national occupational safety and health award ceremony.
The MOL has asked for more detailed information about the terms introduced unilaterally by Jakarta and will discuss the issue with the Indonesian government, she said.
Taiwan's representative office in Indonesia has been asked to help arrange the bilateral talks, Hsu said.
At the seventh Taiwan-Indonesia Labor Conference in 2013, the two countries agreed that they must notify each other if they decide to change their labor policy or system and must reach a consensus through negotiations before any new policy or system is put place, Hsu said.
"We cannot accept this," she said, adding that if Indonesia goes ahead with the unilateral changes to the employment terms, the MOL will remind Indonesia that it should abide by the agreement reached at the Labor Conference.
Meanwhile, the MOL is considering allowing the recruitment of migrant workers from other countries and will ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide a list of such countries, based on its assessment of national security and diplomacy, Hsu said.
The 11 types of fees Taiwan is being asked to cover include labor brokerage fees in Indonesia for caregivers, domestic workers and fishermen; and the costs of labor contract verification, criminal records certificates, overseas social security premiums, and overseas health checks, as well as transportation and accommodation in Indonesia prior to departure, according to the MOL.
Migrant workers and workers' rights groups have long complained about having to fully bear all those pre-employment costs.
The problem lies in the current hiring system, which allows brokers to charge migrant workers exorbitant fees that usually take years to repay and require loans even before the workers depart for Taiwan, according to the groups.
In addition, the brokers usually side with employers to exploit migrant workers, forcing them to perform jobs outside their contract, according to several advocates for migrant workers' rights.
Last month, the Taiwan International Worker-Employment Relations Harmony Development Association, a migrant worker employers' association, held a rally outside the Indonesian trade office, in protest against the Indonesian government's new decree on migrant worker placement, saying that employers would not be able to afford the costs if the new rules were implemented.
As of the end of September, there were 265,553 Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan, 194,254 of whom were employed as caregivers and domestic workers, according MOL data.