The Cabinet yesterday decided to hold off on a proposal to increase the minimum wage next year, stirring speculation that Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) could resign to “take responsibility” for the turn of events.
“Someone has to take responsibility for this,” Wang said when approached by reporters to comment on the conclusions of a review meeting chaired by ministers without portfolio Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) and James Hsueh (薛承泰) on the council’s minimum wage increase proposal.
Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉) declined to reveal the conclusions reached after three hours of closed-door discussions. Kuan and Hsueh could not be reached after the meeting concluded.
An official source at the Executive Yuan said the proposed policy to increase minimum hourly wage in stages — from NT$103 per hour to NT$109 starting next year, and further to NT$115 starting in 2014 — was approved, while the suggested increase of NT$267, or 1.42 percent, to the current minimum monthly salary was put on hold.
Hu declined to corroborate the information and said the conclusions of the meeting were pending Premier Sean Chen’s (陳冲) approval.
However, Wang confirmed that officials from economy-related departments suggested the policy to raise minimum monthly wage be postponed “until the economy gets better.”
Wang said she opposed the postponement for two reasons.
The proposal was put forward by the Minimum Wage Review Committee, a mechanism set up under the council, at which representatives of labor groups, managements, academics and officials had thorough discussions, Wang said, urging the Executive Yuan to respect the mechanism.
If Chen decided to go with the conclusions, it would be the first time the Executive Yuan overruled Minimum Wage Review Committee in recent memory.
“In that case, who would ever have trust in the Minimum Wage Review Committee?” Wang said.
Wang said she disagreed with idea that the weak economy this year necessitated postponement of salary increase because labor cost is a lagging economic indicator, which reflects economic activity after it has occurred, not the current economic situation.
“If Premier Chen does not support the proposal, I will take full responsibility,” Wang said.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) both called for the Executive Yuan to support the planned minimum wage increase.
“The Executive Yuan should refrain from making a decision from the perspective of politics. If the planned hike is suspended, we call on Wang to step down because she could not deliver her pledge,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said.
The planned increase was not only a recommendation by an independent review committee under the council, but also a campaign pledge of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and a promise made by Wang, Pan said.
During his presidential campaign last year, Ma promised to raise the hourly wage to NT$115 and raise the minimum wage.
The suggested suspension, Pan said, also reflects the Ma administration’s preference for the corporate world.
The raise would have been the only good news for Taiwanese during a time of numerous negative economic statistics, DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said.
The TSU said the minimum wage should be raised as recommended and that Kuan should step down for his opposition.