Fri, Apr 01, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Nan Shan agents rally for change in work status

DISPUTE:A spokesperson for the life insurer said the firm had long worked on a contractor basis with agents and had asked the court to settle the issue

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff Reporter

Nan Shan Life Insurance sales agents protest in front of Ruen Chen Investment Holding Co in Taipei yesterday, demanding status as regular staff so that they qualify for benefits should Ruen Chen succeed in its bid to acquire AIG’s controlling stake in Nan Shan.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

Hundreds of Nan Shan Life Insurance Co (南山人壽) sales agents staged a rally yesterday in front of Ruen Chen Investment Holding Co (潤成控股), demanding that their prospective employer recognize them as regular staffers qualified for pension funds and other benefits.

Ruen Chen, which is awaiting regulatory approval to acquire American International Group Inc’s (AIG) 97.57 percent stake in the Taiwanese unit, said it would handle the issue in compliance with labor rules.

“There is no future for Nan Shan if Ruen Chen fails to side with the agents,” union spokesman Wedding Lan (藍維鼎) said.

The demonstration came one day after the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) reiterated that Ruen Chen should make a written promise to put all the insurer’s shares into a trust for 10 years to meet the long-term commitment requirement.

On Thursday last week, the commission told Ruen Chen to set up an escrow fund of NT$30 billion (US$1.02 billion) or the equivalent in assets as proof of its financial strength before it would rule on its application.

Lan and other agents urged the commission to reject Ruen Chen’s bid if it fails to safeguard their rights.

The consortium, composed of supermarket operator Ruentex Development Co (潤泰新), cement and chemical fiber maker Ruentex Industries Ltd (潤泰全) and shoemaker Pou Chen Corp (寶成工業), has offered to retain all Nan Shan workers and keep their benefits and compensation unchanged for two years. It has also promised to honor all policy contracts.

Ruen Chen chairman Cheng Chuan-tai (鄭銓泰) said the company would continue to negotiate with sales agents in seeking a resolution under the current legal mechanism.

“We value Nan Shan policyholders and employees and will protect their rights as required by law,” Cheng said by telephone.

Nan Shan has about 40,000 employees and 4 million policyholders. Ruen Chen has yet to respond to the commission’s latest directives, Cheng said.

The commission has given the buyer one month to submit the required documents.

Wu Hung-ling (吳鴻麟), a Nan Shan sales agent for 18 years, called on his colleagues to boycott ruling party candidates in the year-end legislative elections if the commission and the Council for Labor Affairs ignore their plight.

The insurer said it has asked the court to settle the employment status dispute, but added that the litigation had nothing to do with the shares transfer.

“Nan Shan has long adopted a contractor/mandate agency system, which will not be altered because of change of ownership,” Nan Shan spokeswoman Amanda Chou (周佳容) said by telephone.

Chou said all disputes over contract terms shall be settled by the court. Last September, Nan Shan filed a suit with the district court to affirm the contractor status for 13 sales agents who demand pension funds. The court has not reached a decision.

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