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Chen recants 'virtual zone' minimum wage remark

In current conditions it is impossible for Taiwan to exclude migrant workers from the protection of the minimum wage, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said yesterday. There is no disagreement among the presidential office and the Cabinet, he said.

Chen recanted his previous statement that in the “virtual offshore area,” an idea similar to a special economic zone, the government may consider not including migrant workers under the protection of the minimum wage.

Chen's statement came after President Ma Ying-jeou's endorsement on Wednesday of Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Minister Wang Ju-hsuan's (王如玄) opposition to excluding migrant workers from the protection of the minimum wage, saying that Taiwan's competitive edge depends on innovation and branding, but not on lower wages.

Wang stated that she checked the practice of “virtual offshore areas” worldwide, but there is no special economic zone in any country that has different labor conditions. In special economic zones there might be lower taxes, lower tariffs, and expedient border-crossing procedures, but none of the areas offer cheaper prices for hiring labor, said Wang.

Ministry of Economic Affairs Minister Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥), who has expressed support for excluding migrant workers from receiving the minimum wage, said “the CLA is in charge of the Labor Standards Act and the ministry will respect its decision” on the wage issue. Shih stated that his ministry has always conveyed the views of the industrial sector to the CLA for its reference.

DPP Opposes Excluding Migrant Workers

Interim Democratic Progress Party (DPP) Chairwoman and former Minister of the CLA Chen Chu (陳菊) issued a statement yesterday saying the DPP is against excluding migrant workers from the protection of the minimum wage for the sake of justice and protection of citizens.

Chen Chu said that excluding migrant workers from the protection of the minimum wage harms the rights of migrant workers and goes against the idea of basic human rights, which is detrimental to the global image of Taiwan.

Furthermore, the DPP leader said that this practice will harm local workers because companies will hire fewer local workers. The comparative advantage should be based on innovation, she added.

Protest outside the Executive Yuan

A protest was staged outside the Cabinet yesterday, taking issue with Premier Sean Chen over his remark that a “virtual offshore area” would have to be established within the country if migrant workers were to be excluded from minimum wage laws.

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 '1 country, 2 areas' new basis for dialogue: KMT 
A group of Filipino migrant workers, mostly caretakers and fishermen, protests outside the Executive Yuan with Taiwan labor groups in Taipei, yesterday. The group voiced their discontent about Premier Sean Chen's remark that migrant workers could be excluded from receiving the minimum wage in “virtual offshore areas.” (Akie Ang, The China Post)

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