An academic has raised questions over the Fisheries Agency’s move to increase the wages of Taiwan Provincial Fishermen’s Association officers and staff, saying it may be politically motivated, with the seven-in-one local government elections, set for 2014, looming on the horizon.
The agency last week announced changes to the Act on Managing Personnel for Fishermen Association (漁會人事管理辦法), which raised the cap on the “salary point system” from NT$500 to NT$600 per point and also raised the internal rankings for general executive officers and secretaries.
The salary point system awards workers based on their contribution to their unit and is intended to be a more flexible allocation of wages and to serve as an incentive for workers to work harder.
However, National Dong Hua University professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said the government’s decision to raise the salaries of the association staff and its timing were suspicious.
The seven-in-one elections will be held in 2014 for all directly elected local government positions: special municipality mayors and councilors, county commissioners, city mayors, county/city councilors, township chiefs and councilors and borough wardens/village chiefs.
Although the government does not directly pay the salaries of association staff, the association is usually commissioned to handle subsidies granted by the agency and the Council of Agriculture, Shih said.
On the surface, this would seem to ease the manpower and financial burden on the government, Shih said, but it is simply a way of dodging the supervision of the legislature.
Top-tier association staff were previously required to receive a performance rating of A+ or A for three consecutive years to be promoted in rank, which is commensurate with an increase in salary. However, following the act’s revision, internal rankings for all executive officers were automatically changed from second rank to first, while those for secretaries were changed from fourth to third, Shih said.
The jump in rank is equivalent to a NT$3,200 to NT$4,800 increase in salary, Shih said.
As for the salary point system, the average rate was about NT$400 per point, as the different branches of the association adopted different rates, Shih said.
Almost a third of the association’s branches nationwide adopted the highest pay possible, which was NT$500 per salary point, sources said. With this pay rate being raised to NT$600, it would mean that the most “junior” of janitors would receive a salary increase of NT$6,200 per month while the most “senior” general executive officer would receive an additional NT$10,620 per month, Shih said.
Farmers’ and fishermen’s associations, along with the Taiwan Joint Irrigation Association, have long been viewed by the opposition party as voting powerhouses for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Shih said, adding that even when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power, it found it hard to get these associations on their side.
With the association holding its general elections next year, the timing of the pay raise is just right, Shih said.
If the raise came too early, it would have been forgotten come election time and if it were too close to the elections, then there would be finger-pointing alluding to unfair voting, Shih said.
Chen Kuang-nan (陳光男), a former role-model fisherman, said that if the association had the money to burn by raising the salary of its staff, it should have used it instead to help fishermen who are struggling due to the hard times they are having to endure within the industry.