Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 2 News List

CLA committee to review feasibility of raising basic wage

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) is planning to set up a committee after the Lunar New Year holiday to discuss the feasibility of raising the minimum wage, which has remained constant since 1998, council officials said yesterday.

The current minimum wage, which came into effect on Oct. 16, 1997, is NT$15,840 (US$478.55) per month, NT$528 per day, or NT$66 per hour.

The council's decision to form a "basic wage fixing committee" by the end of May comes in the wake of demands from workers' groups who have not seen an adjustment in the minimum wage in over nine years, the officials explained.

A proposal concerning basic wage adjustment must be endorsed by the committee, which would then submit the proposal to the Executive Yuan for ratification, the council said.

Officials said that the council must be very cautious in considering wage adjustments as this affects social welfare benefits, including labor and national health insurance, and the wages of foreign workers. Wage adjustments might also affect local enterprises and economic development, the council said, adding that it has yet to come up with a likely range for such an adjustment.

The proposal to review the minimum wage, however, was opposed by the chairman of a major think tank yesterday, saying it would do more harm to disadvantaged workers.

"The government's proposal would raise the minimum wage above the value of some workers' labor, thus discouraging employers from hiring and pushing companies to move [overseas]," Chen Po-chih (陳博志), an economist and chairman of Taiwan Thinktank, said in a telephone interview with the Central News Agency.

"In the end, it is the disadvantaged workers that will be hurt," Chen said.

CLA Chairman Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) has been quoted as saying that he was personally in favor of raising the minimum wage, but the decision on whether to adjust it and by how much would be made by a CLA committee.

Chen said the council's position was understandable, but that his argument was made based on a global economic perspective and was aimed at protecting poor and unemployed laborers.

Chen called the move to adjust the minimum wage "irresponsible"and said that he would only consider challenges to his view from laborers now paid the current minimum wage -- provided they were willing to accept responsibility for their own future unemployment should their position on an increase be accepted.

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