Migrant labor activists yesterday protested against a recently proposed plan to abolish the regulation that applies the minimum wage to migrant workers, while Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) also expressed opposition to the plan.
The Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) states that employers are required to employ migrant workers at rates no lower than the minimum wage as it applies to domestic workers.
Two weeks ago, however, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said the government was considering removing the requirement for employers to pay foreign workers no less than the minimum wage, which currently stands at NT$17,280 (US$549) per month.
Unhappy with the proposal, the Taiwan International Workers Association (TIWA) yesterday gathered dozens of labor activists and representatives from civic groups in a protest in front of the legislature.
“The goal of decoupling the minimum wage [from migrant labor wages] is to attract Taiwanese capital back, which means allowing wages to converge and letting migrant labor wages drop to the level of Chinese laborers,” TIWA spokesperson Wuo Young-ie (吳永毅) said.
The plan “sacrifices migrant laborers’ rights in order to appeal to Taiwanese businessmen,” he said.
Without the minimum wage, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged workers would no longer have the safety net they need, the labor group said.
The fact that foreign labor would become cheaper would also threaten to take away jobs from domestic workers, the group said.
The proposal would cause labor conditions for both foreign and domestic workers to worsen and it goes against the universal principle of “equal work, equal pay,” the protestors said.
They also urged Wang to stand up to political pressure and resign if the government insisted on going ahead with the proposal.
At the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee meeting yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) grilled Wang on whether she would tender her resignation over the issue.
“Our stance has always been consistent and clear. We are opposed to decoupling foreign labor wages from the minimum wage,” Wang said.
She also vowed to “keep fighting to the final moment” and said she would step down if the plan went into effect.
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