Female Philippine workers accuse firm of peeping


Female workers from AV Tech hold up protest banners calling for the company to stop using cameras in their dormitories at a press conference held yesterday morning at the Legislative Yuan. (CNA)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Ten female Philippine workers yesterday accused AV Tech Corp., a leading maker of CCTV monitors, of installing eight surveillance devices at their dormitory to snoop on them.

The female employees at AV Tech, located in Sanchong City, Taipei County, made the accusation in the company of Lawmaker Cheng Li-wen of the ruling Kuomintang and a representative of the Taiwan International Workers' Association at a press conference held yesterday morning at the Legislative Yuan.

At the conference, Lawmaker Cheng said that AV Tech, which is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, had installed eight of the company's own surveillance monitors, at the entrance, corridor, stairs, living room, toilet and bathroom, to monitor the behavior and activity of more than 40 female workers.

After watching the recorded footage, some male managerial staff members would discuss what they saw and compare the physical features of the female workers. They even printed salacious pictures from the monitors and circulated them among other male and female colleagues during the monthly meeting between management and labor representatives, according to Cheng.

Such a practice, Cheng said, had seriously violated the women's personal privacy and constituted a kind of sexual harassment.

Gina, one of the protesters at the press conference, said: "The dormitory is just like our home, and we shouldn't be closely monitored at our own home. And why should our figures be revealed to male staff?"

No AV Tech management representative was present at the morning conference to respond to the accusation from the female workers. But the firm clarified yesterday afternoon that the company has consigned a manpower brokerage company to handle the management of the female dormitory, and stressed that the eight surveillance monitors are not targeted at bathrooms and toilets.

The firm continued that of the eight monitors, two are targeted toward the entrance, and two are installed at each of the three floors of the dormitory to monitor the coin-based washing machines and computers that are used for Internet access.

The firm added that all the monitors are installed to protect the safety of female workers.

AV Tech also stressed that if the majority of the female workers don't want to be protected by the monitors, they can negotiate with the company that runs the dorms to have them removed or relocated.

The company will further look into the event to determine who should be held responsible for any wrongdoing.

Tsai Meng-liang, a division chief of the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training under the Council of Agriculture, said that AV's practice of monitoring the behavior of foreign workers might have violated several laws, such as the Employment and Services Law, the Gender Equality in Employment Act, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, and Human Trafficking Prevention Act.

Tsai said that the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) has asked the Labor Bureau of Taipei County to further investigate the scandal. If managers of AV Tech were found to have committed sexual harassment, then the CLA will scrap the foreign labor import permit that has been issued to the firm.

Tsai continued that the county labor bureau has asked AV Tech to remove those surveillance monitors targeted toward sensitive areas within a specified period of time, or face a fine of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000.