Migrant caregivers, domestic helpers slam MOL wage hike system

08/12/2022 02:24 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Aug. 12 (CNA) Live-in migrant caregivers and domestic helpers in Taiwan have blasted the government for a new wage hike policy that will not immediately apply to tens of thousands of migrants already employed in the country and lead to inequality.

The wage increase announced Wednesday, the first since 2015 for family-employed caregivers, will raise the minimum wage for live-in migrant caregivers in Taiwan to NT$20,000, from NT$17,000 previously.

The new minimum wage will still be NT$5,250 lower than for Taiwanese workers because live-in caregivers are not covered by Taiwan's Labor Standards Act, a sticking point among many of the foreign workers affected by the policy.

They were particularly upset, however, that the new hike will only apply to newly arrived migrant workers and those currently in Taiwan about to sign a new contract, but does not affect workers with existing contracts.

Indonesian caregiver Fajar, president of the Indonesian workers solidarity organization Ganas Community, told CNA the MOL did not learn from the previous wage increase in 2015, which angered many workers because it also only applied to those on new contracts.

"I'm not surprised something like this happened again. The MOL should have learned from previous incidents where there were many dissatisfactions from workers who had been in Taiwan for a long time with no increase in salary," Fajar said.

The MOL may be saying that workers who sign new contracts will get the wage hike, but migrants will not be allowed to freely change employers simply because they have not gotten a raise, she said.

Even if the MOL advises or encourages employers to raise the wages of those already under contract, it is not mandatory, meaning many migrant caregivers will be left behind by the new MOL policy, she argued.

Some workers will try to negotiate a raise with their employers, either through their manpower agency or on their own, Fajar said, but "this is very unfair because if the employer does not agree, there will be conflict between the worker and the employer."

Graphic courtesy of Workforce Development Agency under the Ministry of Labor
Graphic courtesy of Workforce Development Agency under the Ministry of Labor

 One of the workers who will not get a wage hike in the near future is Pingtung-based Indonesian domestic helper Ema, who told CNA that people like her work very hard for their employers but are given an "empty hope" in return.

"A very unreasonable policy; we who are and are still working here are considered to have no contribution," Ema lamented.

She had asked her employer for a possible raise in early 2022 because of inflation and other issues, but said she was told she will be paid according to the rules and policies issued by the MOL.

Marie Yang, a leader of the Philippine community in Taiwan and an advocate for migrant workers, told CNA she has received many complaints over the new policy.

"The old workers felt disappointed because they are doing the same job, so why are new hires getting a higher salary. This is unfair," Yang said.

"The government should start giving it a thought...seriously. The wage disparity is causing division and discrimination among the workers."

Beverly Gabredo, a Filipino caregiver who has worked for eight years for the same employer in Taichung, told CNA she was disappointed with the inequality the new minimum wage will create because newly contracted workers will be making more than many experienced workers.

"I think this law is unfair because we are doing the same job as the new hires," Gabredo said. "NT$3,000 is a lot of money that could help our families back home."

Paul Su (蘇裕國), head of the Workforce Development Agency Cross-Border Workforce Management Division under the MOL, told CNA the policy will not be applied across the board because contracts needed to be respected while still valid.

"We had to take into consideration the cost to employers and the rights of workers," Su said.

In defending the policy, Su said the MOL estimated that of the 170,000 live-in migrant caregivers and domestic helpers with legal permits in Taiwan, some 96,000 -- new workers and those winding down existing contracts -- will be eligible for the new minimum wage within four months.

He noted, however, that if employers of migrant caregivers on existing contracts agree to raise the salaries of their workers, they can apply to the MOL by Dec. 31 for a monthly subsidy of NT$1,500 for up to four months.

(By William Yen)

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