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June 27, 2017

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New labor minister opposes dual minimum wage system

The China Post news staff--New Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei(潘世偉) yesterday expressed his opposition to the separation of payment systems for foreign and Taiwanese workers. Such a proposal would see foreign nationals removed from the basic labor wage system.

Pan, who was sworn in two weeks ago, made the remarks at the Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee of the Legislative Yuan in his capacity as minister of the Council of Labor Affairs. He was responding to questions from lawmakers about whether he would follow the policies of his predecessor.

The previous labor minister, Jennifer Wang, tendered her resignation on Sept. 26 after the Cabinet blocked her proposal for an increase in the minimum monthly wage.

Wang had been noted for her strong opposition to the exclusion of foreign workers from the basic labor wage system.

Initially Pan declined to clearly express whether he supported or opposed the separation of foreign labor pay rates from the minimum wage system. Pan said that all the rules concerning the minimum wage as set in the Labor Standards Act are applicable to both domestic and foreign workers.

Pan also stressed that the exclusion of foreign workers from the minimum labor wage program may adversely affect not only the government's negotiations with the U.S. for a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, but also the inking of free trade agreements with other countries.

Lawmaker Chao Tian-lin of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party pressed Pan to clearly explain his position on the issue.

Pan responded simply: "I don't support it." The Council of Labor Affairs has studied the issue for years, he added, concluding that pay for foreign workers should not be detached from the basic labor wage system.

When asked by Chao whether he would quit if the Cabinet decides to exclude foreign workers in the free economic zones in Kaohsiung from the basic monthly pay system in November as scheduled, Pan said that he couldn't answer such hypothetical questions.

Chao said that he would boycott all budget proposals concerning the Council of Labor Affairs and even the inauguration of the Ministry of Labor Affairs if Pan fails to keep foreign workers from being excluded from the basic monthly labor wage program in November.

Lawmakers yesterday also inquried about when any of the prerequisites set by the Cabinet for raising the basic monthly pay from NT$18,780 to NT$19,047 will be achieved.

The first condition requires gross domestic product to grow by over 3 percent for two quarters in a row. The other demands that the unemployment rate stay under 4 percent for two consecutive months.

Vice Economic Minister Woody T. J. Duh said that judging from the country's current economic performance, the two conditions could be reached in mid-2013.

Lawmaker Chao said that if either of the two goals fail to be accomplished by the end of August 2013, ranking officials with the Council for Economic Planning and Development and Ministry of Economic Affairs should step down.

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