More chaos in Taiwan parliament over holiday cuts

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 06 2016 08:31 PM

TAIPEI - Taiwan's parliament plunged into more chaos Tuesday with opposing lawmakers brawling in the chamber as labor activists set off smoke bombs outside in protest at proposed holiday cuts.

Dozens of legislators crowded the podium of the main chamber, screaming and pushing each other and forcing the reading of the controversial bill to be suspended for hours.

Lawmakers from the opposition Kuomintang party blocked the podium, accusing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of "betraying workers".

Labour activists scuffled with police outside. More than 1,000 police officers were mobilized and barbed-wire fences were set up at the entrance to the building.

The protesters set off smoke bombs, threw "ghost money" usually used as funeral offerings and burned President Tsai Ing-wen's campaign flag.

The clashes came after an attack by labour protesters last week on a DPP lawmaker.

Under the bill, workers would be guaranteed one mandatory day off a week in keeping with existing rules. They would also be given an additional "rest day" and paid a higher rate if asked to work on that day.

But seven annual public holidays would be scrapped.

The amendment has sparked a number of rallies and a hunger strike, with protesters accusing Tsai of betraying her campaign promise to protect labor rights.

Tsai has seen her popularity plummet to around 40 percent from nearly 70 percent when she took office in May as her government attempts to tackle a range of domestic issues ranging from gay marriage to pension reform.

"The DPP is pushing for the bill despite public opposition," the KMT said in a statement.

It described Tsai as "like a cold front that is sweeping Taiwan".