Friday, April 17, 2015

Pay laws talks stall in legislature - At least two labor proposals generate cross-party support

Pay laws talks stall in legislature

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, center, Legislative Yuan Secretary-General Lin Hsi-shan, left, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao discuss the four pay raise laws at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Laws aimed at addressing long-term problems of low wages and wage stagnation have stalled in the legislature.
Three of the “four laws for pay raises” proposed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus were up for discussion yesterday, but met opposition from groups representing industries and commercial enterprises, and were pulled from the agenda by the legislature’s new political alliance for cross-party negotiation.
The amendments proposed to the Company Act (公司法), the Factory Act (工廠法), the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act (中小企業發展條例) — dubbed the “four laws for pay raises” — involve reducing working hours and requiring businesses to allocate a percentage of their profits to employees in the form of bonuses or dividends.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday that the main point is to “have corporations and workers benefit together,” but stressed that while corporations should treat their employees better, “regulating [better treatment] might deserve a second thought.”
Lawmakers had scheduled to pass three of the four amendments in yesterday’s legislative floor meeting, but the newly formed caucus “New Legislative Alliance” — consisting of two People First Party (PFP) legislators, one former KMT lawmaker, who withdrew from the party and formed a new political party earlier this year, and a lawmaker with no party affiliation — on Thursday night called for cross-party negotiations over the bills, thereby halting their passage.
The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act was not discussed because it is pending further cross-party negotiations.
PFP Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔), the caucus secretary-general of the new alliance, said they doubted that the proposed amendments would be able to grant substantial benefits to workers and demanded clearer definitions be thrashed out on how the raises would be substantiated.
While the alliance claimed that it pulled the bills from the agenda to ensure the amended laws would be effective in benefiting workers, the postponement has for the time being served the end of another group of protesters.
Seven industry and business groups, including the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce and the Taiwan and Chinese National Federation of Industries, voiced their concerns about the proposed changes outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei on Thursday, especially the requirement that businesses need to negotiate with unions over the allocation of the enterprises’ profits or face fines.
Federation secretary-general Tsai Lien-sheng (蔡練生) said during a meeting with Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) that it was not feasible for corporations to negotiate with unions, as the authority to allocate profits is in the hands of boards and shareholders.
“Also, there might be plenty of unions in a corporation, each of which holds a different position on the allocation. It would be unfair to punish companies if negotiations fail,” he added.
Tsai said that if the environment to invest becomes unfriendly, “industries would have no choice but to leave Taiwan.”
After the meeting, the Executive Yuan released a statement saying that the two sides have “come to a consensus over amendments requiring two days off work each week and the principle of sharing profits with workers.”
Regarding the cap on working hours, it said it would keep the “40 hours a week” rather than the “80 hours every two weeks” advocated by the business groups, but “remains open to a cap on overtime.”

At least two labor proposals generate cross-party support

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Apr 21, 2015 - Page 3

Lawmakers across party lines expect swift approval on Friday for amendments to two out of the four acts aimed at encouraging the private sector to reduce working hours and raise wages for employees.
The proposed amendments to the Company Act (公司法), the Factory Act (工廠法), the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act (中小企業發展條例) would bring wage increases to employees by requiring firms to establish profit-sharing programs.
Two proposed amendments — one to the Company Act calling for businesses to allocate a lump sum or percentage of earnings toward profit-sharing programs, and another to the Factory Act requiring profitable companies to distribute earnings to employees — are expected to spark the least dissent, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said.
Therefore, they could be approved on Friday, Lai added.
Meanwhile, businesses said that the proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act, which would levy fines of up to NT$5 million (US$160,761) on firms that fail to establish profit-sharing, is likely to create standoffs and rifts between employers and employees.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said however that although the opposition party supports the move, it has lingering concerns on the proposed amendments to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act.
Legislators said that the amendments to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act are likely to see the most difficulty in getting approved.
The proposal stipulates that following six consecutive months in which the unemployment rate has remained under 3.78 percent, companies would be able to claim 130 percent of the amount of raises given to their employees as deductible expenses on their taxes. However, the deductible amount excludes raises that come from minimum-wage adjustments.

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