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August 22, 2017

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Minimum wage hikes fuel debate

Minister of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Wang Ju-hsuan confirmed at a Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions ceremony yesterday that the Minimum Wage Review Committee will convene on Aug. 2. Commentators have noted that a diminutive monthly salary raise may cause uproar among both business and labor representatives.

President Ma Ying-jeou promised to raise hourly and monthly salaries when he began his second term this year. According to local reports, raises in hourly and monthly wages are inevitable. Wang stated that the term "minimum wage" means the "minimum" pay stipulated for workers, but employers, however, have altered this to "standard" price, which is unfair to workers.

Academics have said that Wang's promise to raise the monthly minimum wage by 5 percent was affected by the global financial crisis — the figure was reduced to 2-3 percent. Although she promised to raise the minimum monthly wage of NT$19,000, scholars now predict that monthly wages will only raise to a diminutive level of NT$19,200.

Potential Effects on Workers and Businesses

Although it may seem that workers might be satisfied with a raise, the media remain skeptical of the notion. Commentators have speculated that entrepreneurs and small-business owners will lay off workers in order to cut expenses if they are required to raise wages.

Labor representative Lin Chin-yung, a board member of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, raised questions over the minimum wage hike. According to Lin, minimum hourly and monthly wages should be raised at equivalent percentages, adding that it would be ridiculous to only raise hourly wages, in which case employers could simply change payment plans from hourly to monthly pay. The representative also argued that business representatives will never agree to any kind of raise.

Wang Ying-chieh, a member of the General Chamber of Commerce supervisory board, expressed his concern a raise could have on the business sector. He stressed that the failing economy would only become worse, and that business sectors would have even more difficulties in generating revenues, let alone raising wages. "There will be no compromise," he said.

Deputy Secretary General of GCC Tsai Lien-sheng criticized the Ma administration for neglecting the struggles of the business sector.

Wang Hopes for Balanced Talks Between Both Sides

CLA Minister Wang said that she understands the conflicted perspectives of both sectors. She stated that the economic slump has had an impact on both sides. The minister also said that there will be multiple negotiations during the discussion. Since the issue of raising wages must be discussed from all perspectives, Wang added, representatives from the labor sector, the business sector and academia will all be given a chance to voice their opinions at the meeting.

With regard to the issue of raising minimum hourly rates, Wang stated that since workers who are paid on an hourly basis tend to have heavier workloads and less benefits compared to workers who are paid monthly, it was the right decision to fight for their rights.

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