About 1,500 migrant workers and labor activists rallied in Taipei on Sunday. Photo: Facebook

About 1,500 migrant workers and labor activists rallied on a street in Taipei on Sunday to demand political rights and better labor protection.

At 12:30pm, more than a thousand protesters gathered on Yanping North Road, Datong District, in front of the office of the Ministry of Labor and started a march called “Recognizing Non-citizens,” which referred to the civil rights of migrant workers and non-local spouses, Taiwan Times reported.

They marched in heavy rain toward Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Office of the President.

The protest, which is organized by the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT) every two years, was originally set for last month but was postponed to this Sunday because of traffic requirements.

Hsu Wei-tung, a spokesman for MENT, said the political rights of non-citizens should be recognized as they live, consume and pay taxes in Taiwan just like citizens.

Holding an “anti-slavery” banner, protesters urged the government to amend the Labor Standards Act to allow migrant workers to change their jobs freely. They said many migrant workers were forced to run away after they were exploited by their employers.

According to Article 53 of the Labor Standards Act, migrant workers such as fishermen, caregivers and factory workers are not allowed to change jobs within the three-year term of the standard employment contract.

The organizer also said the government should ensure that migrant workers continue to receive the same pay as local workers. If migrant workers were paid less, local workers would soon see cuts to their own salaries.

Last month, it was rumored that the Taiwanese government was considering excluding migrant workers from protection under the Minimum Wage Act. On December 29, the Labor Ministry clarified in a statement that it had no intention of removing minimum-wage protection for migrant workers.

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