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No decision reached in wage-hike meeting

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A committee meeting held by the Ministry of Labor (勞動部) to discuss a minimum wage hike ended Monday without a decision, due to a boycott by the business sector.

Another meeting has been scheduled for Aug. 29, the ministry said.

The existing minimum hourly wage stands at NT$115 (US$3.84), while the minimum monthly wage is NT$19,273.

Food Price Factor

Labor groups have urged the government to raise minimum wage levels in the wake of sharp increases in food prices since the start of this year, which hit 4.27 percent in July and 3.84 percent in the first seven months.

The calls also mounted after official statistics showed that Taiwan's economic growth has fared better than expected, reaching 3.74 percent in the second quarter.

The business sector, however, insisted that the government should only consider a wage hike when Taiwan's consumer price index (CPI) hits an annual growth of at least 3 percent, based on a decision reached by the minimum wage review committee under the Labor Ministry last year.

All seven business representatives in the committee were absent from Monday's meeting in protest over the government's failure to follow the decision.

They represent the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China (中華民國全國商業總會), the Chinese National Federation of Industries, the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce (中華民國工商協進會), the Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (台灣區電機電子工業同業公會), the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (中華民國全國中小企業總會), the Manufacturers United General Association of Industrial Parks of Republic of China (中華民國工業區廠商聯合總會) and the Taiwan Federation of Industry (中華民國工業協進會).

Displeasure of Employers

In a joint statement, the seven representatives said it is “inconceivable” that the Cabinet would use food prices, which are susceptible to seasonal fluctuations, as an “excuse” to adjust the minimum wage.

They also criticized the Cabinet for calling the meeting “in a rush,” which they said made it “impossible” for them to reserve time in advance to attend.

They proposed that labor groups, the business sector and the government work together to create a formula to guide the adjustment of the minimum wage based on factors such as the country's economic growth, CPI, profit margins of businesses and national income.

During the meeting, Labor Minister Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文) said his ministry's decision to review the minimum wage was made in response to calls from lawmakers and labor groups, which believe the recent increase in food prices have affected the lives of low-income households.

Other committee members who attended the meeting, including six labor representatives and three academics, expressed support for the decision, on the grounds that Taiwan's economic performance has been better than expected.

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