"Western" foreigners are a fairly visible group in Taiwan, but they are outnumbered ten to one by the ‘other foreigners’ – blue-collar workers from Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. These foreign workers have faced many hurdles in coming to a new country, not least abuse by employers and indifference from the government bodies intended to protect their rights. Here Gi Estrada talks about the work Migrante has been doing for these under-represented people in Taiwan.
Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP) – Taiwan Chapter is not the first Filipino mass organization to be set up among Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan. It is, however, the first cause-oriented group that advocates not only on matters affecting their sector but also the aspirations of the Filipino people.
The first chapter of MSP was set up in Taipei in late 2003 in preparation for the 2004 national elections. For the first time, overseas Filipinos were allowed to participate in the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV). Progressive migrant organizations under Migrante International (MI) felt that they should participate in the elections by setting up their own party and having their own candidates coming from the grassroots. The MI or more commonly known as Migrante is an alliance of progressive Filipino organizations worldwide.
MSP campaigned with the platform of service to the migrants and to the Filipino people and its own records and achievements in endeavoring for such ideals. As such it not only handled or referred cases but also advocated for the repeal of anti-migrant policies in Taiwan and the Philippines. In addition to this it undertook education courses on the political and economic situation of the country.
It is thus not surprising that MSP garnered the second most number of votes in the party list system for the Philippine Congress in Taiwan. It won however in Taipei and Taichung areas but lost in Kaohsiung where it had no campaign machinery, whatsoever. It lost to CIBAC, the party of the Jesus Is Lord Movement, which has thousands of members in Taiwan.
Among MSP’s campaigns in Taiwan, some of which were coordinated with other Filipino and even Taiwanese organizations were against the Council of Labor Affair’s (CLA) proposal on the Financial Management of Foreign Workers. Others include the implementation of a Standard Employment Contract for all migrants of all job categories that would be under the protection of the Labor Standards Law. This includes the non-recognition of all side agreements imposed on the migrant workers.
MSP also assisted the campaign of the workers at the Formosa Plastics Corporation (FPC) in Mailiao, Yunlin County. This is to ensure justice to the six workers beaten up for staging a strike last year and for improving the conditions of those still working inside. A criminal and civil case is pending in Taiwan and the Philippines. And through their own efforts, the workers by staging three strikes in less than a year have won many concessions from the company. The biggest of which is non-payment of brokers’ fees as long as they do not have any absences.
Right now MSP is campaigning against the political killings of activists in the Philippines, the right of caretakers and domestic workers to have days off and for Overseas Filipino Workers in Taiwan to have the right to be included in the workers on leave program of the Philippine government.
It is thus not surprising that MSP continues to grow and has expanded its members to include a number of factory workers up to Taoyuan where Filipinos have the biggest concentration of workers. It will continue to address the immediate problems of the migrants while continuing to advocate changes or repeal of anti-migrant proposals.