Tue, May 01, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Workers in dire straits, opposition says

STAGNANCY:Pan-green lawmakers said two workers die from overwork every 15 days, 26% have no savings and wages have increased by only NT$15 since 2008

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Workers will not be in much of a mood to celebrate Workers’ Day today because they have to endure stagnant wages and worsening working conditions, pan-green lawmakers said yesterday.

Labor statistics are alarming, with the average wages of Taiwanese workers on the same level they were in 1999 and two workers dying from overwork every 15 days on average, DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference.

The DPP caucus called on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to raise the minimum wage, reduce weekly working hours and enforce inspections of working conditions, he said.

While Taiwan once had a proud highly skilled workforce, workers have had a difficult time under the Ma administration as they worked 2,174 hours annually, one of the highest figures in the world, but saw the average monthly wage increase by only NT$15 between 2008 and last year, he said.

More than 700,000 workers work part-time and 26 percent say they have no savings, he said.

The dismal labor environment has compelled 61.9 percent of young people to contemplate working overseas, Pan said, citing a recent survey by a human resources company.

Last year’s labor statistics showed that 3.55 million Taiwanese workers — 42.83 percent of the total workforce — make less than NT$30,000 a month, an increase from 3.31 million workers in 2008, when Ma took office, DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said.

Now they also shoulder a heavier burden, dealing with rising prices for fuel, electricity and consumer goods, she said.

Most of Ma’s industrial policies have favored management and corporations, while the voices of salaried workers, who bring in about 70 percent of Taiwan’s tax revenues, were not heard, DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) expressed similar concerns, urging the government to raise the monthly minimum wage from NT$17,880 to NT$25,000, or NT$120 an hour, to help local workers deal with inflation.

More than 70 percent of local businesses said they had no plans to raise wages despite the government’s urging, TSU Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) said.

The reason behind management’s refusal was that labor representatives account for only one-third of the Council of Labor Affairs’ minimum wage committee, she said, adding that her party would propose amending legislation to increase the number of labor representatives on the committee to more than half the total.

TSU party whip Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) urged the government to lower the mandatory retirement age for the disabled from 60 to 50, as they do not have the same stamina as their able-bodied peers.

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