(Editor's note: this is an article from a member of YFOTU in March, now we make it translated into English so our foreign friends can know more about the real situation in YFO.)
A few weeks ago, there was a petition circulating among our plant of Young Fast Optoelectronics (YFO) which states that "those in the union only care about the interests of a few and ignore the majority of the workers; what they really want is to screw up the company."
I know many senior administrators took the anonymous petition excitingly and demanded the workers to sign to endorse it, saying "it represents the actual opinions of the workers in Young Fast." As I know, many of my colleagues signed it under the face-to-face demand of their administrators.
But is it true? "The true opinions of the workers," is that so?
My name is XXX, a member of Young Fast Optoelectronic Trade Union (YFOTU). I was as an ordinary operator around this time last year. Yet the establishment of YFOTU a few months ago suddenly made it clear to me: what I’ve hoped and desired for is neither something unreachable nor some great expectations.
I am 53 years old now. Before I came to YFO, I’ve had several jobs, and when I finally turned to YFO, the interviewer told me: “Our work here mainly corresponds with the seasonal demands of our clients (such as HTC), so we usually have to work overtime to meet their needs. Can you do that?” I said yes immediately without a second thought. Why? For I’m a single father, my daughter had just begun her senior high school, and my two younger sons were in elementary school. For a nearly 50-year-old and sacked middle-ager like me, what better offers can I have? I desperately needed this job.
During the days I worked in YFO, my children got used to their dad's leaving home early in the morning and coming back late at night. Every morning, I would tuck up all the stuff they need for school before I left. Then, at 7:50, I would clock in, and put on clean-room suit. By the time I stepped out the factory, it was already 19:50 and the stars were hung high in the sky. After a 40-minute ride on my scooter, I get home and then have dinner with my children who are waiting for me. Actually I had left them money for dinner, but they all said they want to wait for me and have dinner together.
The official working days of YFO is said to be Monday to Friday, but everybody knows that we have to work overtime all year round; when we have too many orders to catch up, we have in average only 3 days off in a month. All these are true. When we see YFO's stock price rising all the time, the touch panels we made during long overtime becoming part of HTC mobile phones, that it cooperates with international brands like Google, and that our products could be souvenirs to our allies given by President Ma, we would laugh with tears for the honor of YFO. I am living like this for years without a complaint.
If I could, I’d never confront my company. I really hope to work peacefully in YFO. I pay attention on my work everyday not to make any mistakes, because I want to co-operate with the company and bring up my children. I don’t want too much: I do everything YFO demands, I just hope YFO can give me the basic payments regulated by the law. I didn’t think it’s so hard and complicated to fulfill such a simple wish. Is it because the company was losing money? No! On the contrary, as the profit of YFO is rising, so is the stock price. The high-tech industry with a splendid outlook has be-came our miserable hell.
YFO expands skyrocketed with its orders increase in a very short time. But the administrators were so lagged behind that they still ran our company like running an army. When our administrator received orders from the company CEO, that we should "catch up with the orders this month," they would force us to extend our working hours and cancel our holidays during the weekends and the national holidays to hurry up the production.
There was one typhoon last year, it rained like crazy outside, our team leader still forced us to work. What if something bad happened to me? who is going to take care of my children? I firmly said "no" and did not go to work that day. Then the next day I was called to have a meeting with our team leader, who accused me of my "bad attitude" for not willing to work extra hours. My team leader furiously said that "There is no such thing as typhoon days off in YFO"
Do you remember we used to have NT$500 of overtime for each extra weekend day we worked? That's NT$3000 to 4000 each month if we sacrificed all our weekends. For some, this may not sound like much; however, to me, it means a semester's lunch boxes for my son, or my daughter's dinner money. If you wonder why I don't look for a better job, my answer is: I am too old to.
The situation changed: we had to work for the whole weekend to get the extra NT$500, later they canceled the extra money all together, while we were still forced to work overtime, and were threatened wage cuts if we refused. The supervisors told us the extra pay was not regular, according to the labor laws. But I wonder why we workers always put up with whatever the company tried to force on us? For what exactly do we work so hard for them?
Every weekend I can see children watching TV at our canteens. Is that because we offer better television programs? They are the kids of our single-parent workers who can't afford to hire babysitters, they are left there unattended while their parents worked overtime. When I worked overtime, I am also worried of my daughter who is home alone. I used to work worried all the time: what if there was fire or earthquake?
We worked around the clock for the company, but what did we get in return? The company's stock price skyrocketed last year, all supervisors, administrators and engineers got a decent bonus; but for us factory workers, we only get a wee bit of year-end bonus. I wonder why all the glory always goes to the top tier of the company, while the workers at the bottom, who sacrificed our health and our time with the family, are always maltreated and ignored?
I hope the high officials in the company can hear us: when you are happily counting the money, you are losing your workers. Many of us couldn't put up with the inhumane way of management in the factory, and decided to quit to leave this wretched workplace.
Now people are leaving every other day. While it takes time for the newbies to be familiar with the working process, the supervisors don't care about employee training, they exerted pressure and force, and all they want to see is productivity. How is this vicious circle helping the company to keep workers?
I have no idea whether the supervisors of the company can understand, that it is a vicious circle. Whenever the employers encounter the same situation, the only way they deal with it is to enforce the repressive management and strict demand! Therefore, the problem can never be resolved. Those who left keep grumbling everyday until we establish the union. They are either looking for jobs or stranded like me. My coworkers who had quit then have already got better jobs, and I envy them.
So you ask me why can't I keep enduring since I've being doing it for so long?
Why do we establish the union? Why do we stand out to protest at this moment?
Because we can't stand it anymore. People know that I am not meddlesome. I have a heavy burden, I had to borrow money from others to maintain livelihood every month. Employers request me to work overtime, I can endure it. They cut my wages every month, but I also compromised. However, what on earth do I get from these endurance and compromises?
We used to think perseverance will eventually bring peace; we used to believe if we worked hard enough and make the company rich, we would be better off, too. Our company went public and listed last March, with its stock price skyrocketed soon afterwards. The strong demand for our products, which have made the chairman and top supervisors so proud, have become nightmares, pressuring us to keep working over time without due pay. It made me wonder: why was our company treating us as working machines? Didn't they know we had feelings, too?
I believe many of my colleagues are having the same doubts: why can't the company be more humane in managing their workers? Why can't we get paid our overtime ac-cording to the labor laws? Why do we have to work on public holidays and typhoon days? How come those who asked for their legal rights got called out individually, and then moved to another section, or worse, fired?
How come the human resources people never heard of the Labor Standards Law, or received any professional training on management? We are fed up with seeing our wages unfairly deducted, without getting legal reasons for it.
We decided to form a union, not because we want to fight the company. The company said they wanted "harmony among workers and employers for a sustainable business," but the truth is we are already facing tremendous pressure and unfair treatment for too long!
Therefore, when the union started, we didn’t protest at all. All we wanted was to sit down and talk with the administrative about our appeals. We asked that the union members could have some time off to reclaim the wages of our colleagues—a right guaranteed by the union law.
At that time, all we wanted is for the company to at least see how us workers are being maltreated in the frontline, so we can negotiate a better way to exist together. However, even when the inspectors from the Labor Department said the company is breaching the laws in several ways, the supervisors still denied it. When the union asked for justice, all we got were threats and sack letters.
When our supervisors knew we had formed a union, he said us laborers "are not qualified to form unions." He thought we don’t have enough education to fight for our rights, let along running a union. I have been wondering why these supervisors are so arrogant to us technicians? Do we deserve to be treated like dogs just because we didn’t go to college? If we remain silent when people treat us like nothing, doesn’t it mean we have agreed with him?
I used to think that people who take to the streets demanded too much. But now, I finally realize that all I want is just to be respected and treated as a "human being."
My daughter is going to college this year. I am very strict to her, because I don’t have good educational, so I couldn't get a decent job. Therefore, I expect her to study harder, and enter a national university (in fact, I can't afford the tuition of a private university anyway). Although I can’t afford the expense of cram schools, I still hope that she could enter National Taiwan University, and have a promising future, instead of ending up like her father, working so hard and tired every day, but earning such small income. So I keep telling her that “If you don’t study hard, you can’t have a good career in the future.” Her school performance has always been outstanding, and I am really proud of her. Recently, she has been in her puberty, so we constantly have quarrels, and our relationship becomes very tense, which makes me frustrated. How-ever, during this period, my colleagues and I formed the labor union, negotiating with the company, being oppressed by the company; all of these are under her eyes. Last week she saw her father, with other partners of YongFast Labor Union, holding the white banners, shouting the slogans on TV. After I came home, she gave me a thumb up, and told me “Dad, you’re so cool!”
Today, I can finally speak out loud. All my coworkers in YFO, please hear me out: I do not want to fight against the company, and I do not want to hurt anyone. I do not mean to, and will not crush our company, making all of us lose our job. I am just like every one of you, living on this small wage to support the family. I am willing to work until the day I die. But for my beloved family, I have the humblest plea to the company: PLEASE treat us like a human being. PLEASE follow the laws, which guarantee our proper rest time and wages to support a family.
This is it! This is all I want! Every night I came home, I saw my daughter deeply asleep. She is proud of me, but I do not want to see her face this kind of situation when she grows up. Will there still be companies treating its workers like dogs like YFO did when she has grown up? How could our society say O.K. to the evil companies like YFO? Isn’t it the result from people like us working in the company, who allow all these evil deeds and then turn a blind eye to the bloody capitalists?
When you see that the whole economic situation goes down, you realize that it is really hard for the young people today to find a job. We are all exploited for almost a lifetime; do you really want to see all these miseries happen to our children? To make a change to this structure is to tell the company that they have no right to treat us like this. We are not only fighting for ourselves, but also for our beloved family and generations to come. We fight because we hope our children will not have to go through all these tragedies we are now facing.
To all my coworkers, I can barely bear to see many of you signing the consent form against our union under pressure from the senior administrators. I want to ask: do you really believe every word the company said to you? When our union fights for the wage the company owes us at the forefront, at this very moment, are you really willing to endorse "the voice of our majority?" Is it that easy for you to forget the hard-ship all these years?
We formed the Union because we want our company to treat us like decent human beings. What we are fighting for are basic rights. We just want a steady job here, to support our family without feeling so much pain, feeling humiliated or exploited. We hope that what we contribute makes our life valuable and that our proper pride can be satisfied.
We contribute our efforts, and we do not steal or mug, only to make our company rich. But we also want a life with quality and respect, which is all us laborers asking for. When so many basic human rights are taken away by our company, we have tried our best to live a decent life, but still, we can barely survive.
We are not fighting against our company. We just want to defend our dignity, if there are still some left, and we will stick to it for our beloved family. This is my humble hope. For this hope, I will work harder and try my best to talk to the company as long as it takes.
I sincerely hope that my partners in YFO see my sincerity and my efforts. I hope that all of you do not misunderstand the union, and do not give up so easily. If you are not in the union, please join us! Let's talk to our company. Let’s change the current environment. Then, we can hold on to our hope, and promise our next generation a better tomorrow.
Translated from Chinese by: Kwang-Yin Liu, Ya-Han Chang, Ya-Ting Chan, Hsiao-Chan Wang, Yu-Ching Su, Kai-En Chiu, I-Hsin Lin, Lennon Ying-Dah Wong
Chinese version（中文版）: 基層心聲1~請把我們當「人」看 --一個洋華員工的投書