Tsai pressed over minimum-wage vow

COMMOTION CODIFIED?:Chinese Culture University professor Lee Chien-hung said that the Labor Standards Act always brings about endless controversy and haggling

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jul 13, 2017 - Page 3

Labor rights advocates yesterday renewed calls for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to fulfil campaign promises to pass a minimum-wage act and criticized review standards as a meeting of the Ministry of Labor’s annual Minimum Wage Review Committee approaches.

“The government cannot keep avoiding this issue, as it was one of its main labor policy promises and is crucial to Tsai’s vow to combat low wages,” Taiwan Labour Front secretary-general Son Yu-liam (孫友聯) said, adding that while the New Power Party (NPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucuses have proposed minimum-wage legislation, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) legislative caucus has yet to take action.

“What is meant by ‘basic’ has never been clearly defined,” Son said, adding that the government has often changed its calculation standards, at one point seeking to make determinations based on a formula centered around industrial production and economic growth.

The minimum wage was most recently raised to NT$21,009 per month following last year’s meeting, with this year’s to be held by the end of September, according to the provisions of the Regulations for the Deliberation of Basic Wage (基本工資審議辦法).

Chinese Culture University Department of Labor Relations associate professor Lee Chien-hung (李健鴻) said the passage of formal minimum-wage legislation is necessary because of the vague and non-binding nature of review standards.

“While the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) mandates the establishment of a minimum wage, it allows the government to set its own review standards, which means that none of the seven standards set under the Regulations for the Deliberation of Basic Wage are truly binding,” Lee said. “The result is endless controversy, as every year’s committee devolves into blatant haggling.”

Review standards that are in force include overall economic development, two price indices, average income and wages and overall employment conditions.

“It is clear that economic considerations have had a huge influence over minimum-wage adjustments, but this has failed to adhere to the fundamental principle that the minimum wage is supposed to benefit the weakest and most marginalized workers, so you cannot just focus on the economic situation when deciding whether to make economic adjustments,” Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions president Chuang Chueh-an (莊爵安) said, adding that strong economic growth should warrant an increase at this year’s meeting.

Worker compensation as a percentage of GDP fell sharply from 51 percent in 1992 to 44 percent in 2015, according to Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics figures, Chuang said, calling for the administrative function of the committee to be raised as part of any reform.

The committee is “consultative,” with motions subject to government veto, Lee said.