Taiwan News: 85C Cafe Controversy Continues, 5% Minimum Wage Hike Agreed

Taiwan News: 85C Cafe Controversy Continues, 5% Minimum Wage Hike Agreed
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The Mainland Affairs Council is criticizing China for its bullying of the 85C Bakery Café chain into making a political statement in support of the "1992 consensus" after online posters there labeled the cafe chain a 'pro-Taiwan independence company.'

The so-called "Chinese netizens" are also calling for people there to boycott the Taiwan-owned cafe chain.

Shares in Gourmet Master, which owns and operates the bakery cafe chain, dropped by more than 7 percent in Thursday trade on the Taipei Stock Exchange as a result of the furor, wiping US$120 million off its market value, according to a report by Bloomberg.

According to MAC deputy minister Qiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正), such behavior will only undermine the healthy development of cross-Strait ties and Taiwanese companies and the people of Taiwan will not accept such actions.

85C Bakery Café's official website in Taiwan remains down after being hacked Thursday.

Despite its pledge to back the "1992 consensus" the cafe chain has been removed from several online food delivery service platforms in China, where it owns 589 regular chain stores.

The Chinese market accounted for 64 percent of the company's total revenue in the first quarter of this year.

The deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office has said that Beijing will never allow any company that supports Taiwan independence to make money in China.

Earlier this month, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) called for the National Security Council to work with the Executive Yuan to draft plans to assist Taiwanese businesses in relocating away from China back to Taiwan or one of the 18 countries included in the New Southbound Policy in order to avoid fallout from the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.

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Labor unions and business groups reached a compromise agreement on a minimum wage increase set for next year Thursday, though both sides left a meeting hosted by the Ministry of Labor dissatisfied.

As per the deal, Taiwan's monthly minimum wage will be increased by 5 percent to NT$23,100 (US$750) from Jan. 1 next year. The hourly minimum wage will be increased by 7.14 percent to NT$150.

The proposal, agreed during an annual parley that usually occurs in the third quarter, will now be sent to the Cabinet for approval.

Labor groups had wanted the minimum monthly wage set at NT$23,540, or an increase of 7 percent, while business groups protested the final agreement, arguing the proposed increases are expected to see labor costs for industry rise by NT$39 billion a month.

Ho Yu (何語), a director at the Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI), said that the increase will prove to much for some of Taiwan's small- and medium-sized enterprises, and may contribute to an increase in youth unemployment, which currently stands at almost 10 percent.

Read More: ANALYSIS: Taiwan Is Better than Selfish Bosses and Their Heartless Wage Threats

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The Four Points by Sheraton is terminating its contract with Marriott International, in protest over the U.S. hotel chain's decision to list Taiwan as part of China.

The Marriott earlier this year faced pressure from China to change the island's designation, including the shuttering of a local website in China, which resulted in the hotel chain apologizing and changing listings on its simplified Chinese language version of a booking website to "Taiwan, China."

According to the Four Points by Sheraton, it will no longer be taking reservations from Marriott's booking system, after web users in Taiwan discovered that Marriott had unilaterally changed the designation of its Taiwan branch in line with the rest of its Simplified Chinese content.

Four Points by Sheraton is a brand of business hotels under the Starwood brand, which was bought by Marriott in 2016.

The chain, which has a branch in New Taipei City's Zhonghe District, announced the news in a front page advert in Thursday's Liberty Times newspaper.

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賴清德, 發言人KolasYotaka(谷辣斯‧尤達卡)
Photo Credit: 中央社
Taiwan Premier William Lai walks with Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) has approved the central government's budget plan for 2019, which shows expenditure of NT$2.022 trillion, up 2.8 percent from this year's level.

It is the first time the budget has topped NT$2 trillion.

A majority of the budget, or NT$492.2 billion, will be set aside for spending on social welfare programs, followed by NT$422.8 billion for education, science and culture.

The defense budget comes in at NT$346 billion (US$11.7 billion) – a figure which represents 2.16 percent of Taiwan's GDP and is up NT$18.3 billion from last year, while NT$248.2 billion has been set aside for economic development.

At a news conference following a weekly Cabinet meeting, Lai emphasized the government's focus on implementing the second phase if its Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, which is set to receive a NT$227.5-billion tranche of funding.

The proposed central government revenue of NT$1.977 trillion marks a 3 percent increase from last year.

And the budget proposal will be referred to the Legislative Yuan by the end of this month for review.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the proposed defense budget for 2019 was NT$329.5 billion (US$10.7 billion). It is in fact NT$346 billion.
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The Supreme Court has upheld a previous ruling by the High Court and ordered the Radio Corp of America (RCA) and its affiliates to pay 262 of its former Taiwan employees and affected family members NT$564.5 million in compensation.

It referred another group of 246 plaintiffs to the Taiwan High Court for a retrial.

The ruling is seen as setting a precedents for holding multinational conglomerates accountable for putting profits before employee safety and the environment.

RCA operated three major plants in Taoyuan, Hsinchu County and Yilan County from 1970 to 1992, employing about 80,000 workers at its peak.

And the latest ruling finds RCA, General Electric, Thomson, and Technicolor liable for the death and illnesses of workers due to their exposure to hazardous chemicals and the use of underground water contaminated by the dumping of toxic waste at its Taoyuan plant.

The 7.2-hectare site of RCA's former Taoyuan factory was designated as a permanently polluted zone in 1989.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG
A surveillance camera is seen near construction sites in Beijing's central business area. Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council is warning that a new smart residence permit Chinese authorities are making available to citizens of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan could have privacy problems.

The Mainland Affairs Council has said Taiwanese nationals working or studying in China should be cautious about the risks associated with a new residence permit the country is planning to issue to people from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan starting Sept. 1.

Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said the residence card is part of Beijing's efforts to bring Taiwan under its control, similar to the economic measures launched earlier this year to attract Taiwanese businesses.

According to Chiu, Taiwan citizens in China should be aware that the residence permit could pose a risk to personal privacy, particularly in light of Beijing's efforts to install a vast network of video surveillance and facial recognition technologies as means of social control.

Chiu also said his office will seek to find out more about the difference between the new residence permit and the temporary residence card that is currently issued to Taiwanese nationals working and living in China.

Beijing announced that the new cards will be readable at electronic terminals at railway stations, airports, banks and other places, and will make life easier for holders.

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The Taoyuan Department of Labor has said progress is being made in negotiations between EVA Airways and its pilots.

The two groups met Thursday for a second round of talks aimed at averting a possible pilots strike next month.

City labor officials said the talks were a clear improvement on last week's first round of negotiations, when no consensus was reached.

And union officials suggest the airline is now demonstrating some flexibility on work hours and the length of a pilot's first contract.

EVA Air pilots have asked the carrier to increase crew numbers on long haul flights and give them more time to rest before and after flights.

They are also asking EVA-trained pilots and retired military pilots be allowed to sign seven- and four-year contracts, respectively instead of the current 15-year contract.

A third round of negotiations will take place next Wednesday.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG
Read More: VIDEO: Confessions of a Far Eastern Air Transport Flight Attendant

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The Taoyuan District Court has rejected an appeal by China Airlines to prevent its pilots from taking strike action.

The Taoyuan Pilots Union said the court rejected the provisional injunction filed by China Airlines earlier this month that sought a judgement on the legality of the union's attempt to call a strike.

The ruling comes ahead of a second round of negotiations between the union and the carrier today.

China Airlines had argued the union's action was illegal because an occupational union comprising of members from different companies cannot vote to take action against any single company.

However, the court ruled that the pilots' demands to improve working conditions affects not only their own rights but also the safety of passengers, which means the issue involves more than just commercial interests.

The pilots union voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike last Tuesday.

And if negotiations breakdown today, a strike date is expected to be announced next Monday.

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President Tsai has held talks with Honduras' vice president and is promising to increase agricultural cooperation between the two countries.

Tsai met Olga Alvarado for nearly an hour after attending the inauguration of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez.

National Security Council deputy secretary-general, Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥) said the talks focused on furthering agricultural cooperation, with coffee and avocados high on their agenda.

According to Tsai, she told Alvarado that Taiwan will assist Honduras in further developing its avocado cultivation and distribution, from seedlings and production to marketing and online promotion.

Taiwan will also continue to purchase coffee grown by Honduran farmers, she added.

Tsai is now in Belize for a three-day visit, during which she will be decorated by Governor-General Colville Young and meet with Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

She is scheduled to return to Taiwan Aug. 20 following a day-long transit stop over in Houston, Texas.

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Photo Credit:CM Kuan
Kuan Chung-ming has been the epicenter of controversy ever since his election as National Taiwan University president in January.

The Control Yuan has approved a proposal to request the Ministry of Education and the National Taiwan University to take corrective measures in order to deal with controversy surrounding the selection of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as the university's president.

The government watchdog has been reviewing the disputed election for six months.

Control Yuan members Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠) and Chang Wu-shou (張武修) said the government's regulations were inadequate and the education ministry failed to put forward any measures to complement the university's selection process or deal with any issues of illegitimacy.

The review has also found that Kuan had violated regulations governing public employees and should have submitted a written application to the university for approval to take a second job at a for-profit organization that has ties to the university.

The Control Yuan said the education ministry and the university should now review and amend existing legal regulations to prevent similar disputes in the future.

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Taiwan's Ang Lee (李安) will be honored this year for his contributions to cinema as a pioneering filmmaker.

According to the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Lee is widely recognized for his artistic risk-taking, and filmmaking achievements across a range of genres.

Lee's directing credits include "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon."

The American-based director is also the only person from Asia to have won two Oscars for best director -- for "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pi."

The 2018 DGA Honors ceremony will be held in New York City on Oct. 18.

This news bulletin was provided courtesy of International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), Taiwan’s leading English-language broadcaster.

Editor David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)

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