Nantou County’s Lugu Township (鹿谷) Farmers’ Association paid its members in Chinese currency twice in 2017, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.
DPP Nantou County chapter member Tseng Tsung-kai (曾琮愷) and Shueili Borough (水里) warden Chen Kuei-yu (陳癸佑) held a news conference in front of the Nantou County Government building, where Chen said that his wife, Chen Yu-min (陳尤敏), learned of the incident when canvassing for votes and that she was asked to make it known.
Association members were allegedly paid in Chinese yuan equivalent to NT$6,000 (US$211 at the current exchange rate) for working overtime in June 2017, and December 2017 or January 2018, Chen said.
Photo: Chang Hsieh-sheng, Taipei Times
A preliminary inquiry by Chen and Tseng found that association representatives, managers and supervisors had brought more than 600,000 yuan (US$92,943 at the current exchange rate) into Taiwan in 2016 and 2017.
The Ministry of Labor yesterday said wages should be paid in legal tender, citing Article 22 of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
Wage is defined in the act as the payment one receives in compensation for their work, including overtime pay.
If the employer is based in Taiwan, it should pay in New Taiwan dollars, the legal tender of the nation, the ministry said.
The ministry said that even if association members had not expressed discontent upon receiving Chinese yuan, the currency is not considered legal tender and the association could face fine of betwwen NT$20,000 and NT$1 million for breaking the law.
Tseng called for an investigation into the issue, especially into how the money arrived in Taiwan, whether it went through legal channels and whether its distribution was related to association elections.
The Nantou County Farmers’ Association in early March 2017 held elections for new chairpersons, supervisors and directors-general.
However, there were no witnesses to back the allegations at yesterday’s news conference.
Association Director-General Lin Yi-neng (林義能) said the accusations were ludicrous.
The sources of the association’s funds are well-documented and they are proof of the its hard work to improve the finances of the township’s residents.
Lin said Chen had made the accusations in retaliation for his wife being disqualified from running for association director-general.
Tea from the Lugu area, especially Oolong tea, has long enjoyed international renown, and tea exhibitions and competitions have long been a stable source of income for the association since 1976, Lin said.
In compliance with government policies and export regulations, the association has established a special account in China for Chinese purchases of Lugu Oolong tea and has since accumulated more than 800,000 yuan, Lin added.
However, the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) limits the amount of Chinese yuan a person can carry when entering or leaving Taiwan at 20,000, Lin said.
The association had to find ways to distribute the money generated by the sales of Lugu products to township residents, he said.
Nantou County Bureau of Agricultural Affairs Director Chen Jui-ching (陳瑞慶) said that the county government would look into the issue, but a preliminary inquiry had shown that the association did not break any laws, and if both sides had agreed to payments in Chinese currency it did not pose a problem.
The county government has yet to receive an official complaint, but would ask the association for information to clarify the issue, Chen Jui-ching said.
Additional reporting by Chang Hsieh-sheng and Hsieh Chieh-yu
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