Population: 23,000,000
Capital: Taipei
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: Not a member state

Many categories of workers, including teachers and doctors, are not allowed to form a union. Collective agreements are still rare and it is hard to hold a legal strike.

Trade union rights in law

Many restrictions: Prior to 1971, when it was displaced from the ILO by the People's Republic of China, Taiwan had ratified ILO Convention 98 on the right to organise and collectively bargain. Despite this early international commitment, while the right to organise is generally protected by law, there are also significant restrictions on this right. Defence industry workers, fire fighters, teachers, civil servants, doctors and medical personnel, defence industry workers and domestic employees are still not permitted to form trade unions. Army personnel and police are also not permitted to form or join trade unions.

The Civil Servants' Association Law allows civil servants the right to organise professional associations. These do not in any way equate to trade unions. Teachers had hoped that they would be given the right to join and form unions, but the necessary amendments to the Labour Union Law, proposed by unions and their allies in the Legislative Yuan in January, were rejected. Under the Teachers' Law, teachers may form associations but cannot form trade unions or take strike action.

Migrant workers can join trade unions, but only Taiwanese citizens may hold leadership positions.

The Labour Union Law states that labour union leaders must be elected regularly by secret ballot.

Government interference permitted: The Labour Union Law has authorised the government to interfere directly in the internal affairs of trade unions since 1949; however, it has always refrained from using that power. Trade unions must submit their articles of association and rules to the public authorities.

Restrictions on the right to strike: The Labour Union Law and the Law on Settlement of Labour Disputes prescribe extensive procedures for reaching employer/workers agreement in the case of labour problems and conflicts. Failing that, a long procedure must be followed prior to calling a strike. Workers may approach the public authorities in the event of violation of their rights or labour disputes (14,262 cases of this type involving 8,000 people were dealt with in 2007). While the government bodies are authorised to impose mediation, arbitration or conciliation procedures, the law forbids workers and employers from disturbing the "work routine" whilst that procedure is taking place. It imposes severe fines for any such violations of that routine, either through strikes or employer retaliation measures. As a result, it is difficult to hold a legal strike.

Collective bargaining limited: Collective bargaining is recognised by law but is not mandatory.

Limits to coverage of salaried workers under Labour Standards Law: The Labour Standards Law, which governs the rights and obligations of both workers and employers, and provides oversight for working conditions, does not apply to numerous sectors of the labour market, including doctors, nursery employees and gardeners, domestic workers and lawyers.

An estimated 10 to 15 per cent of the salaried workforce is outside the purview of this law, further undercutting a minimum floor of standards upon which collective bargaining can be based.

Export Processing Zones (EPZs): Companies operating in the export processing zones are subject to the same labour laws as the rest of the country.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Collective bargaining limited: The number of workers covered by collective agreements is limited. Collective bargaining mostly takes place in large companies, which account for a mere five per cent of companies in the country.

Employers loath to work with unions: Many employers were unwilling to negotiate agreements with unions or discuss any other labour issues with them. Many enterprises readily locked out or fired workers for union activities, in spite of existing provisions in the Labour Union Law concerning discrimination against union leaders.

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