February 11, 2009

80% of Hsinchu Science Park employees on unpaid leave

Under the severe impact of the global economic plunge, some 80% of the employees at the hi-tech factories operating in the Hsinchu Science Park are taking unpaid leaves, said the park administration.
I heard this reported on the news this week. The above quote is from an article on cens.com. The analysis seems a little lacking:

Yien Chung-min, director general of the park administration, pointed out yesterday (Feb. 9) that although the global economic outlook is still uncertain, the number of employees on unpaid leave is unlikely to increase further. So far, there have been no major disputes over the practice at the park, thanks to the good communication between management and labor, according to Yien.

I don't know why they would say the number of employees on unpaid leave is unlikely to increase. From what I've seen, the number has only increased. Maybe they feel that an optimistic outlook is good for the economy. Either that or they know something we don't.

The next sentence is a pat on the back that there were "no major disputes." Instead of attributing that to good communication, I think the real reason is that employees are afraid of losing their jobs if they complain.

Personally, I'm glad to have some unpaid vacation. If your job is classified as direct labor, and you have five days of unpaid vacation a month, you only end up losing 5/30 of your salary. The pay deducted is based on days in the month, not working days. So, it's actually a pretty good deal.

If you are direct labor, like most of the women working in the fabs, including foreign workers, then the pay deducted is based on working days, so it's a much bigger loss.

For a lot of indirect labor, the situation is worse than it sounds. They have to take unpaid vacation, but are still pressured into going to work on their days off. The park administration should do a survey of that. If you find that almost all of the employees on unpaid leave are actually going to work, then it's clear managers are pressuring employees to work on their vacation days, and in some cases threatening them with being laid off (the next time there is a need for layoffs). Of course, none of that will be put in writing.

Another sneaky move that companies make at this time it to lay people off, but have the laid-off workers sign statements saying they are voluntarily quitting, so that the company can report that it hasn't made any layoffs.

Managers may remind employees that in the US, layoffs are common, while in Taiwan this kind of unpaid leave is common, so employees should be grateful to hold on to their jobs.



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