Six Philippine fishermen on Saturday accused Philippine and Taiwanese labor brokers of making excessive deductions from their salaries.
The fishermen, based in New Taipei City’s Shenao Fishing Port (深澳漁港), said that NT$8,000 had been deducted each month from their salaries for up to 14 months.
“In Taiwan, we feel we have been deceived, overcharged and do not have a broker who we can readily consult, trust to translate on our behalf, take care of our concerns, protect our interests and represent our welfare,” the fishermen said in a joint letter.
The letter was filed with New Taipei City’s Labor Affairs Department last month.
The men said they were asked to sign a promissory note stating that they had acquired a loan, with the amount and person owed left blank, adding that they were also asked to sign an affidavit stating that the deduction was a placement fee and not a loan, and that they would have to pay the full amount if their contract were terminated.
One of the fishermen, Rey Dela Roca Jolloso, said that had he not signed the paperwork, he would have had to pay for the airline ticket to Taiwan, which he could not afford.
“When I was about to board the plane [to Taiwan], they covered up the text and told me to quickly sign the bottom corner of each page,” Jolloso said, adding that his airplane ticket was paid for by a broker in the Philippines and the cost was added to his processing fee.
He said his employer in Taiwan paid his processing fee and that he agreed to return an unspecified amount, which would be paid by deductions from his salary.
The case was brought to the labor department, but negotiations broke down on July 2, because it was not clear who was making the deductions, department official Chris Wu (吳健寰) said.
“The Taiwanese broker said the deductions were made by overseas employment agencies, so the Philippine representative office has been asked to investigate the matter,” Wu said, adding that according to Taiwanese law, labor brokers in the nation are not allowed to charge so-called “job-buying fees.”
A representative of Hoya Human Resources, the men’s broker in Taiwan, said the department had already closed the case.
“From the start, this matter has been influenced by the church, which must have its own agenda,” the representative said.
He was referring to a matter from two years ago when a church in Taiwan helped three fishermen represented by the firm file a complaint over mistreatment by their employer and asked to be transferred to another employer.
“Because I denied their request, I believe they are now retaliating,” the representative said.
Leoni Pascual Ngo, a staffer at the Migrant Workers’ Concern Desk of the Catholic Archdiocese of Taipei, said the previous case was about the three fishers having to purchase their own personal protective equipment instead of having them provided by their employer.
She said the broker also wanted to charge the three fishermen NT$20,000 each to be rehired.
She denied that the church was “retaliating” against the broker.
Allison Lee (李麗華), secretary-general of the Yilan Migrant Fishermen’s Union, said that massive deductions from fishers’ salaries have been rare in the past six years after the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (MECO) clamped down on illegal deductions and stepped up efforts to look after the welfare of Philippine fishers.
Lennon Ying-dah Wong (汪英達), director of the service center and shelter for migrant workers at the Serve the People Association in Taoyuan, said that the government should forbid brokers and employers from making salary deductions without the consent of employees.
MECO said that it plans to meet with Hoya Human Resources tomorrow to discuss the matter, while the Philippine employment agency has said it would return any excess fees.
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