Sat, Sep 29, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Chen names new labor minister

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) has promoted Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Deputy Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) to department minister amid heavy criticism of the agency over a worsening of labor standards.

Chen said he approved Jennifer Wang’s (王如玄) resignation as minister at around noon yesterday and suggested to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) that Pan be her successor.

Pan is familiar with labor laws and policies and is truly receptive to ideas that create “solutions” for all parties concerned, which “fits the needs of our situation,” Chen said, adding that Ma has given his verbal consent for the appointment.

Wang offered to resign earlier this month over disagreements with the Cabinet regarding minimum wage adjustments, the application of minimum wage levels to migrant workers, as well as the application of an upper limit on the employment ratio of migrant workers to local workers within an enterprise.

She tended her resignation letter on Tuesday, one day after ministers without portfolio Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) and James Hsueh (薛承泰) reviewed the proposal and prompted Chen to delay raising the minimum monthly wage until the economy improves.

Chen said on Wednesday that an increase of NT$267 to the minimum monthly wage of NT$18,780 would take effect only after GDP has grown by more than 3 percent for two quarters in a row, or the unemployment rate drops below 4 percent for two consecutive months, overruling the CLA’s suggestion that the basic wage be raised next year.

Fielding questions from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) at the question-and-answer session in the legislature yesterday, Chen confirmed that a policy to delink wages for migrant workers from the nation’s minimum pay rate was being considered.

Under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), migrant workers’ salaries cannot be lower than the minimum wage.

“The delinking is now not legally permitted, but in the future, we might have a special law to allow for exemptions to the rule in certain areas,” Chen said in reference to the government’s pilot programs to set up several model free-trade zones to facilitate liberalization schemes across the country.

A draft document governing the establishment of the pilot zones is being formulated by Council for Economic Planning and Development and is expected to be completed in November.

Chen also spoke on the migrant wage delinking scheme.

“If employers move overseas to countries where minimum wages do not apply to migrant workers, they take away jobs for local workers,” he said, but he added that “we understand there are human rights concerns involved in the issue.”

When questioned by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), Pan said two factors needed to be considered when deciding whether to prohibit migrant workers from being included in the minimum wage, including whether the change violates the two international human rights conventions and whether it would render Taiwan unfit as a free trade partner.

“In a pluralistic society, there will inevitably be different opinions and it’s natural that people have different moral values, but in order to find solutions, I suggest that we put aside our own values and look at how the problems can be solved,” he said.

Pan said a decision on whether to exclude migrant workers from the minimum wage rule could only be made after the two factors have been studied.

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