Some of the countries who send a large number of foreign laborers to Taiwan have balked at recent increases in the room and board charges that employers are allowed to deduct from employees' wages, the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) reported yesterday.
The Liberty Times said there had been a flurry of rejections of workers' applications to come to Taiwan because of the increased boarding charges.
Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam have said boarding charges of more than NT$2,500 a month are unreasonable and that they would not allow their nationals to work under those terms, the newspaper said.
The change in policy came after the minimum monthly wage for full-time workers, including foreign laborers, was raised in July from NT$15,840 to NT$17,280.
The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) simultaneously raised the maximum that employers are allowed to charge foreign workers for monthly room and board from NT$4,000 to NT$5,000.
A CLA release responding to the Liberty Times story said that the council will continue to negotiate with countries that export workers to Taiwan.
The statement described the protests against the increased boarding charges as "contrary to free market principles."
Marlon Rosales, a Filipino machinist who has worked in Taiwan for more than a year, said that most foreign workers saw their take-home pay shrink after the minimum wage was increased because of employees took the opportunity to raise their room and board charges.
"Now we have increased wages, but less money," Rosales said.
The Liberty Times quoted an unnamed member of a foreign trade office in Taipei as saying that the room and board charges were another way for foreign laborers to be exploited in Taiwan.
The room and board charge was instituted by the CLA to discourage the rampant practice of employers taking kickbacks from labor brokerages.
However, the foreign official told the Liberty Times that the charges did not halt the practice of kickbacks.
A factory manager at CLC industrial Co, who wanted to remain unnamed, told the Taipei Times that he sympathizes with foreign laborers who face a number of deductions from their wages.
"With the board charge of NT$5,000 and the agency fee of NT$1,800 from the laborers' [monthly] salary, you are not left with much," the manager said. "This also does not take into account the sum they usually have to pay to arrange for a job in Taiwan in the first place."
Many foreign workers no longer see Taiwan as an attractive destination, the manager said.
"They have a lot of choices now ... the Middle East or [South] Korea for example," he said.