By Joan Yap
Joan Yap

“Continue the dream for the family despite what happened in my life. Even though I lost one hand, I still have another one. I won’t give up. Just keep fighting. I believe in God. He won’t forsake us. Let’s continue to trust in God and in ourselves that we can overcome all the challenges in life.”

These were the words of Arturo, a migrant worker in Taiwan who dreams of providing a better life for his family. Unfortunately, he experienced an occupational accident, and I would like to share his story of how he selflessly fought his case and inspired others.

Arturo worked in a family business with only 13 employees, including 4 locals and 9 Filipinos. It was overwhelming for him as it was his first time working with big machines and the kind of work that seemed very hard to do. Arturo had a 12-hour work shift every day with just one day off each week.

All the Filipino migrant workers, including Ar[1]turo, lived in the factory’s base[1]ment. It was a small place with no bathroom or win[1]dows, where nine peo[1]ple shared a room. It was difficult for them to sleep because of the unpleasant smell of aluminum as well as the oil and dark smoke that seeped into their room. They usually managed only to sleep for 4 to 5 hours. He felt it was unsafe because it lacked fire safety protection, and during heavy rains, their room would get flooded too

One fateful night, while trying to fix a machine, Arturo’s right hand got caught in it, leading to the amputation of his right hand. He was rushed to the hospital, and the next day he had surgery. After a month and a half, he was asked to return to work even though he was not yet fully recovered.

Arturo at a press conference in support of domestic workers rights

Arturo sought help from the Hope Workers’ Center and filed a complaint against his employer for the following reasons: unsafe working environment, hazardous machinery, long working hours, and hazardous living conditions. He demanded justice and that his company be investigated, hoping to receive full compensation. The district court ruling favored Arturo, ordering the company to pay him for his injury caused by faulty equipment. Unfortunately, his employer declared bankruptcy, so Arturo couldn’t pursue the company to give him his financial compensation. The company appealed the ruling to a higher court, so Arturo had to extend his stay in Taiwan for another 3 years. He said that this fight was not just for him but for all those who had suffered due to company negligence. There were times when he wanted to give up, especially during the pandemic when he was unemployed and far from his loved ones. Yet, Arturo chose to stay in Taiwan to finish the case. Four other migrant workers had previously experienced the same type of accident, resulting in finger amputation, but they had returned home without pursuing a case. He hopes his story will encourage factories to prioritize worker safety.In the shelter, Arturo found a home where he became a “kuya” or big brother to everyone. He helped with activities and used his experience to advocate for fellow migrant workers in similar situations. He shared his story with NGOs and the government. Although Arturo did not receive the anticipated financial compensation, the journey itself and the relationships formed with those who became his friends and family meant far more to him. Carrying all the learnings and the story of his courageous battle, Arturo’s message to all migrant workers is clear: use your voice to fight against injustice and be courageous in the face of challenges as you fight for your rights. Your life can serve as an inspiration to others, as true justice is ultimately in the hands of God.