Wed, Aug 15, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Hourly wage proposal on hold for now

LABOR The bottomline result of a plan to begin compensating workers by the hour would have been slimmer paychecks. Due its unpopularity, the proposal has been put on ice -- at least for now

By Chuang Chi-ting  /  STAFF REPORTER

Labor groups yesterday smashed ice outside a meeting of the employment panel of the Economic Development Advisory Conference. The groups were protesting plans to freeze the Labor Standards Law.

PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

A panel group under the Economic Development Advisory Conference has decided that a proposal to move to an hourly wage system is simply to hot to handle.

The proposal, called "no work, no pay," would have meant a huge reduction in pay for the nation's workers.

Labor groups were opposed to the measure because workers wouldn't receive compensation for their days off, as they do under the present system.

In addition, the labor panel said the minimum wage of NT$15,840 for both foreign and local workers should be kept. There were proposals earlier to do away with the wage guarantee.

"It's very difficult for one to survive on the current monthly minimum wage of NT$15,840," said Lin Hui-kwung (林惠官), president of the Chinese Federation of Labor and a participant on the employment panel. "Some workers have to support families on these wages."

Pai Cheng-sheng (白正憲), a labor activist and another participant in the panel, said there are other ways to boost the economy rather than asking workers to take a pay cut.

"Besides, if workers lack purchasing power, how can economic development be ensured?" Pai said.

Still, while the panel has taken a hands-off approach to the minimum wage for now, the group said it would urge the Council of Labor Affairs to consider adjusting it in the future.

But no specific proposal as to how the wage should changed was put forth.

For foreign workers, the panel put its weight behind a Council of Labor Affairs proposal to deduct food and rent allowances from their paychecks.

Chen Chu (陳菊), chairwomen of the Council of Labor Affairs, said negotiations have begun with countries that send workers to Taiwan.

The government hopes to implement the plan in September, when NT$2,500 per month will be deducted from workers' paychecks, an amount that will eventually rise to NT$5,000.

By far the issue that had caused the biggest brouhaha yesterday was the proposal to move to an hourly pay system.

In January, a revised version of the Labor Standards Law was implemented, reducing working hours from 48 per week to 84 hours per fortnight.

Because workers are paid for their days off, the change meant that employees were getting an additional six paid hours off per week -- in effect a back-door pay raise.

To avoid giving workers more time off for the same amount of pay, some companies proposed moving to the hourly system.

Chen yesterday said she supported the idea, saying that it was an international trend.

But she later denied, however, that the council supported the shift after her comments angered labor movement officials.

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