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Labor groups furious over minimum wage hike delay

The China Post --Angry labor union members yesterday hurled eggs at a replica sign board of the Executive Yuan in front of the building, shouting “Leave your post, Premier Sean Chen!”

The protests came a day after Chen announced that a proposed hike to the minimum monthly wage would be postponed. Following his announcement, an emotional Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Minister Wang Ju-hsuan (王如玄) announced her resignation.

The final bill includes raising the minimum hourly wage from NT$103 to NT$109 beginning January 2013, but not the originally proposed monthly minimum wage hike from NT$18,780 to NT$19,047. The Executive Yuan has promised adjustments will be made once GDP growth maintains a rate of at least 3 percent for two quarters or if the unemployment rate drops below 4 percent for two consecutive months.

Lin Chin-yung (林進勇), a representative of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU), criticized the government for punishing the workers for the slumping economy. “Why are we paying for the fault of the government when they're responsible for the failing economy?” asked Lin.

Confederation of Taoyuan Trade Unions Chairman Mao Chen-fei (毛振飛) said that there are roughly 1.5 million workers in Taiwan who live on minimum wage, and that raising the monthly figure by NT$267 was the equivalent of NT$1 more per hour. “How can the government refuse such a small raise,” Mao said.

Along with the eggs, unions also threw accusations that the government is dominated by business interests.

“The government has disrespected the policies of the minimum wage draft. Although the Executive Yuan (is responsible for) ratifying the bill, they have no right to make changes. If they deny the bill, they need to present strong, persuasive reasons,” the TCTU stated.

The draft bill was the result of a consensus reached after six hours of debate and communication between professions from the business, education, labor and government sectors. The proposed hike was the smallest of the past two years. It is also the first time administration officials have halted such a bill.

When asked to respond to Wang's resignation, Lin stated, “She did the right thing. She was incompetent in persuading the officials and therefore she did not complete her duties.

“But more importantly, we demand the premier and (Minister without Portfolio) Kuang Chung-ming (管中閔) step down.” Kuang strongly opposed the wage hike for fear of affecting Taiwan's economy.

Executive Yuan Refutes Accusations

According to Executive Yuan spokesman Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉), the Premier Chen has made several attempts to persuade Wang to stay on.

Chen has to make judgments based on the entire scope of Taiwan's economy and industrial development, which is the reason he requests thorough, detailed information over such issues relating to workers, Hu said. He also pushed back against claims the government is backed by the financial sector.

“If it were so, would he (Chen) still ask for Wang's suggestions and ask her to present detailed information,” Hu asked.

Wang Restates Her Beliefs

Although Wang sent out a letter to officials and the media after her resignation, thanking them for their efforts, she sent out another one to declare her beliefs yesterday

“Although I have left the post, I will continue to fight for what I believe in. Humanity, rights, dignity and safety have been my goal ever since I stepped up to the post four years ago, and they will still be after I leave,” she wrote.

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Protesters raise their fists in front of the Executive Yuan yesterday in a rally against the government's postponement of a hike to the monthly minimum wage. Holding placards that read “Dignity labor” and “Give back my egg,” labor unions demanded the premier step down.

(Akie Ang, The China Post)

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