Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Jiang downplays role in pay changes

Jiang downplays role in pay changes

STAGNANT PAY:The premier faced questions over the minimum wage yesterday after the Taipei mayor described the low monthly pay as a ‘national shame’

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Premier Jiang Yi-huah, right, wipes sweat from his forehead during a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday downplayed the government’s role in deciding the nation’s minimum wage, saying any adjustment to the current NT$19,047 a month level should be initiated by the minimum wage review committee.
Taiwan adopts a bottom-up approach to setting the wage, in which the committee — composed of members representing industry, the government and academia — reviews the minimum wage in the third quarter of every year, as opposed to a top-down approach in which the premier makes the decision, Jiang said in a question-and-answer session at the legislature.
The Executive Yuan will “respect, as much as possible,” suggestions that the committee proposes to the Ministry of Labor, he said.
The Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) states that the Executive Yuan has the final word on adjustments to the minimum wage proposed by the ministry following a review by the wage committee.
Lawmakers raised the issue at the legislature after Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said in an interview with the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday that the predicament of low wages facing salaried workers was a “national shame” and urged the central government to raise the minimum pay.
Hau announced last month that the city government’s contract workers who are currently paid the minimum wage of NT$19,047 would see their monthly pay rise to NT$22,639 starting in May.
Asked to comment on Hau’s description, Jiang told reporters that the government welcomes any “constructive” suggestions to remedy the problem of wage stagnation.
National Development Council Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) said using the term “national shame” to describe current wage levels was an emotional response that does nothing to help the economy.
Several lawmakers expressed concern over the problem of low pay and urged the Cabinet to take concrete steps to address the issue.
The average starting salary for a junior-college graduate is NT$26,400, compared with NT$35,200 in Hong Kong; between NT$60,000 and NT$70,000 in Singapore; and NT$74,000 in South Korea, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said.
“The government should feel sorry for our young people,” he said.
In response to a query from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) earlier yesterday, Jiang said he would not rule out the minimum wage being raised to more than NT$20,000 after this year’s annual review.
When asked by KMT Legislator Wu Yu-jen (吳育仁) about this later yesterday, the premier tried to clarify his comment.
Jiang said that when he said he did not rule out raising the minimum wage, that did not mean it was a guarantee that the minimum pay would increase.

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