Thu, Apr 15, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Minimum pay for migrant workers may be dropped

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said yesterday that the government was considering abolishing the regulation that applies the national minimum wage of NT$17,280 to migrant workers, triggering concerns from human rights activists that it could worsen labor exploitation.

“It is not a new issue ... We are trying to find a solution that would encourage the return of Taiwanese capital from China and an influx of foreign capital that would not lead to an exploitation of migrant workers,” Wu said when approached by reporters yesterday.

Employers are required by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) to employ migrant workers at rates no lower than the minimum wage applied to local workers.

“Despite the [regulation], migrant workers actually do not receive that much. There are some that earn between NT$7,000 and NT$8,000 per month. We need to find a way so that migrant workers are not exploited,” Wu said.

Wu said that there are several reasons behind the gap, such as employers illegally deducting NT$2,000 from a migrant worker’s monthly salary to pay into the Employment Stabilization Fund (ESF), migrant workers repaying placement fees they owe to brokers and employers taking board and lodging expenses from their salaries.

Current regulations require employers to pay NT$2,000 a month to the ESF for each migrant worker they employ. The fund was established to help local workers in light of the fact that importing foreign workers could exacerbate unemployment.

The rules also allow employers to deduct board and lodging expenses from an migrant worker’s wages, but the amount is capped at NT$4,000 per month.

Labor groups yesterday voiced opposition to Wu's proposal.

Jill Huang (黃吉伶), the deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, said that waiving the minimum wage for migrant workers could only worsen exploitation.

“There are often cases where migrant workers actually earn between NT$3,000 and NT$4,000 a month in their first year working here. The gap [between actual payments and the minimum wage] exists, but what the government needs to do is to look into problems with the broker system and various irregularities involving employers instead of canceling the minimum wage,” Huang said.

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