Taiwan govt promises plans in place to end wage stalemate

Taiwan govt promises plans in place to end wage stalemate
File Photo: A protester carrying a placard marches the street during a rally held by Philippine, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Thai migrant workers in Taipei, December 11, 2011.

TAIPEI - Newly appointed Labor Minister Chen Hsiung-wu yesterday stated that contingency plans stand ready to break a possible stalemate in minimum wage negotiations, during an interview with the Central News Agency (CNA).

Chen stated that while the ministry will retain a neutral stance in negotiations exploring possible hikes of the minimum wage between labour and employer representatives, contingency plans are ready to be initiated in the event that the process becomes mired in a stalemate. Chen also declined to provide estimates on the scale of the possible minimum wage hikes and relayed the ministry's stance on the issue. Chen emphasised that in order to have its recommendations be recognised as the accepted basis of negotiations by both the labour and employer representatives, the ministry must avoid presumptions and retain its impartiality in the matter.

According to Chen, employers prefer to base wage level changes on changes in economic growth performance and the consumer price index, while labour representatives prefer to have the figure based on the total costs required to cover living expenses and provide for dependents. Chen noted that the ministry is monitoring the steep rise in the costs of pork, chicken, eggs, laundry detergent, powdered milk and flour over the past six months.

The ministry is working on establishing a set of metrics to determine appropriate adjustments to the minimum wage, said Chen. The labour minister, however, stated that these formulas often don't survive for long, as the matter is complex and involves innumerable variables.

MOL Talks Migrant, Local Worker Guidelines

Chen stated that the ministry is against employers' calls to establish different compensation guidelines for migrant and local workers. According to Chen, such a change would give rise to humanitarian concerns for foreign companies, lowering their willingness to invest in Taiwan. In addition, the same concerns would also hamper Taiwan's efforts to attain free trade agreements with other nations.

Employer representatives earlier stated that they may consider raising the minimum wage to NT$25,000 (S$1,000) for Taiwanese workers if separate compensation guidelines are established for migrant workers. Industry associations also advised the government to draw from precedents in Hong Kong and Singapore, which have different compensation guidelines for local and migrant workers.

Chen, who had formerly served as the Taipei City deputy mayor, stated that while the capital's decision to raise the minimum wage for temporary employees working in the city government to NT$22,000 is a step in the right direction, the Ministry of Labor must assess the matter on a broader level that reflects the needs of the entire nation.

Meanwhile, labour representatives are demanding that the minimum wage be raised to at least NT$20,000.

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