Basic minimum wage to remain unchanged until 2010: CLA head

Friday, November 28, 2008

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The basic labor wage will remain unchanged at the current level of NT$17,280 per month until at least 2010, Jennifer Ju-hsuan Wang, minister of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), announced yesterday.

Wang made the announcement based on a conclusion reached yesterday afternoon during the year's second meeting of the basic labor wage screening committee under the CLA.

After weighing various factors, such as economic growth data, employment conditions, and commodity price index, all the members of the screen committee shared the view that it is not the right time for raising the minimum labor pay, according to Wang.

She continued that the screening committee also resolved to consider whether to adjust upward the basic monthly wage in 2009 based on the overall situations.

If the nation's economy improves, then the CLA may mull hiking minimum labor wage by the end of 2009, and accordingly, such a wage may be officially raised in 2010 at the earliest.

The global financial crisis has led to many undesirable changes, including negative economic growth appearing in the third quarter, a record high employment of 4.percent in October, serious plant closures and massive labor layoffs, all beyond expectations of the new government that took office May 20.

If the basic monthly pay is raised regardless of the bad situations, then workers will eventually suffer because employers may cut their workforce to survive poor business operations.

But the CLA decision angered several non governmental organizations advocating for workers.

They argued that the current minimum wage, NT$17,280 (US$519) per month, cannot cover the daily basic expenditures of workers and their families, demanding the government raise the minimum wage to at least NT$23,870, which means an increase of 38 percent.

"The government wants to stimulate consumption, but how can workers spend money if they don't have it?" said Mike Jen, president of the National Trade Union Confederation and a labor representative on the committee.

Jen was speaking in front of the CLA building, where protesters urged the CLA to protect labors' rights.

Pointing out the NT$3,600 per person shopping vouchers which the government plans to issue in January to stimulate domestic spending will be "spent in a second", Jen stressed that the real solution to stimulating consumption is to raise wages.

The government has decided to distribute a total of about NT$83 billion in vouchers to every citizen, regardless of age or income level.

The protesters outside the CLA Thursday said a large number of them are suffering from cutbacks in personnel, mandatory unpaid days off or a reduction in salary.

Taiwan's basic wage was raised in 2007 from NT$15,840 to NT$17,280 per month, an increase of 9 percent. Prior to that increase, the basic wage had not been adjusted for 10 years.