Led by the Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA), dozens of labor activists yesterday protested in front of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to voice their opposition to the possibility of scrapping minimum wage requirements for foreign workers, a move some business groups have been calling for.
During a minimum wage meeting being held at the council, members of TIWA, the Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan and other migrant labor groups said the minimum wage should apply to foreign workers as well. The protest, they said, was their way of responding to business groups that refuse to increase the minimum wage because it would mean that the wages of many foreign workers would be increased.
About 1.2 million workers, including 170,000 foreign workers, are paid the minimum wage of NT$17,280 per month. However, minimum wage requirements do not apply to the 180,000 foreign workers who work as caregivers at their employers’ residence because this category of work is not included in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
“Many foreign workers already earn below minimum wage because they have to pay exorbitant brokerage fees and have room and board fees deducted from their salary,” TIWA spokesperson Wuo Young-ie (吳永毅) said.
“Many foreign workers only end up with NT$4,000 or NT$5,000 per month after the fees have been deducted,” he said.
TIWA said the council’s stance should be to protect all workers and that scrapping minimum wage requirements for foreign workers would exacerbate their exploitation. Not only should the council oppose the plan, but for the sake of fairness and equality, it should also prohibit businesses from deducting room and board fees from the workers’ salary, the association said.
The protesters said that if foreign workers’ salaries fell below the minimum wage, the salary levels of Taiwanese would fall as well because businesses would have even less incentive to hire domestic workers, who are more expensive.
In response to the requests, CLA Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said the council maintained its position that the minimum wage would not be scrapped for foreign workers, adding that if this happened while she was in office, she would “step down to take responsibility.”