Minister plans to maintain course

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Oct 03, 2012 - Page 3

Council of Labor Affairs Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) yesterday said he would follow the course set by his predecessor and only make some fine-tuning.

Pan formally took over yesterday as head of the council from Jennifer Wang (王如玄), who tendered her resignation last week after the Cabinet shelved her proposed minimum monthly wage increase.

Pan said he would follow the basic direction set by Wang and plans only to “fine tune the way [policies] are executed.”

A veteran of labor affairs for more than three decades, Pan said he hoped that “Taiwan’s economy could move forward” while at the same time “safeguarding human rights and the rights of the laborers.”

Wang, who was a human rights lawyer before becoming the labor chief, celebrated her 51st birthday yesterday and expressed appreciation to her colleagues for being so supportive over the past 1,596 days.

“As a lawyer who requires precision and efficiency, I want to apologize to you all because my demands might have caused you too much stress,” she said.

Wang said she would rest for a while before “continuing to fight for the underprivileged.”

She leaves at a time when labor policies are being hotly debated because of Taiwan’s struggling economy and declining exports, which have prompted the government to consider policies that keep a lid on wages and encourage the greater use of cheaper foreign workers.

Aside from the temporary shelving of the minimum monthly wage increase, for example, the government is also considering setting different minimum wages for domestic and foreign workers, something Wang strongly opposed.

At an inter-agency meeting on Monday, the Executive Yuan also reached a preliminary consensus on allowing companies to use more foreign workers as a percentage of their total workforces, a decision Wang declined to comment on.

Under the consensus, companies investing in new projects in Taiwan will be able to maintain workforces with 5 percent to 10 percent more foreign workers than would have been allowed previously, though the total ratio of foreign workers will not be allowed to exceed more than 40 percent. The new investors will also be exempt from paying employment stabilization fees — assessed on each foreign worker — for three years.

Companies engaged in physically demanding, dirty and dangerous work are currently allowed to apply to hire foreign workers and can have between 10 percent and 35 percent of their workforces composed of foreign workers, depending on their industrial sector.