Taiwan's Latest Emergency Services Salary Switcharoo

Taiwan's Latest Emergency Services Salary Switcharoo
Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
What you need to know

Junior cops are getting promised a raise of a whopping NT$1,370 per month, but two-thirds won't see it. Firefighters are also getting hosed.

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On May 29, an amendment to the Police Personnel Regulation (警察人員人事條例) was passed by the Legislative Yuan which includes a provision to allow for pay raises to junior-level police officers and firefighters. With the program beginning in January next year, 66,000 officers in the National Police Agency (NPA) and various fire departments will see their maximum monthly salary increase by NT$1,370 (US$46) per month.

Higher level police and firefighters will also see their salary caps increase, but to a lesser degree.

The Ministry of the Interior (MoI) said that 28,000 employees would receive raises within the first year, 38,000 within three years, and 66,000 sometime in the future. In its announcement, the MoI said that the amendment would cost around NT$1.17 billion per year, of which NT$870 million would go toward salary increases and NT$300 million towards pensions and related expenses.

Legislative Yuan majority leader Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that this would be “the warmest gift” on the eve of Police Day (June 15).

The salary increase is enough to buy one large coffee at 7/11 per day.

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Photo Credit:柯文哲
Taiwan's police are subject to long hours for low pay.

However, Taiwan Police Union (台灣警察工作權益推動協會) Secretary General Chen Jianhong (陳建宏) told The News Lens that in his view, “about two-thirds of the junior-level police won’t see a salary increase.” He argued that because many police haven't hit the regular salary cap, these changes will not affect many officers.

Chen also highlighted a problem of officers being underpaid for the amount of overtime they work. He said that officers are paid overtime wages of about NT$258 per hour, but the monthly cap is NT$17,000, about 66 hours of overtime per month. Instead of receiving pay for any time over that, police are instead given a certificate commending their service to the country.

“But the fact is, in Taipei, police work between 80 and 84 hours overtime,” Chen said, adding that much of the overtime work goes unreported; officers don’t bother with the paperwork if they know they won’t receive overtime pay. He added that junior-level officers really need fewer working hours and time to rest.

'One country, many systems'

In a press conference on May 29, New Power Party (NPP) caucus whip Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said that the DPP and the Executive Yuan was right to increase salaries, but added that police and firefighter rights should be expanded, and that the separate system for governing those sectors' labor rights should be abolished.

Most industries are governed under the Labor Standards Act, but a few professions such as police and firefighters are exempt. The NPP says that police officers and firefighters are under a situation of “one country, multiple systems.”

The central government gives cities a subsidy of NT$12,000 per firefighter, which local governments supplement to pay firefighter salaries, so different fire departments often issue vastly different salaries for the same work.

National Association of Firefighters' Rights Secretary General Zhu Zhi-yu (朱智宇) said at the press conference that he hoped that any pay increases would be issued in a unified way, instead of by local departments. He added that he hoped the central government would subsidize the pay of firefighters in smaller locales.

He added that they hoped for amendments to the Labor Union Act (工會法) to allow police and firefighters to freely organize. Police and firefighters do not have the right to organize, so both the National Association of Firefighters Rights and the Taiwan Police Union are informal associations that operate without normal union protections.

The original Chinese-language article can be found here.

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Translator: Morley J Weston