Sun, Sep 21, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Finding middle ground with labor

By the Liberty Times editorial

After the Taiwan Railway Workers Union Mid-Autumn Festival strike and the union's subsequent decision to have another strike on Lunar New Year's Day, employees of other state-run enterprises, including Chinese Petroleum Corp, Taiwan Power Co, Chunghwa Telecom Co and Taiwan Sugar Corp (Taisugar), also began to band together, declaring their intention to hold follow-up protests in the forms of strikes and rallies in the month of October. Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union chairman Chang Hsu-chung (張緒中) said that more than 5,000 workers will first be mobilized on Sept. 23 to join forces with the National Teachers' Union to encircle the Legislative Yuan and that the workers' unions of other state-run enterprises will mobilize people to support them as well. Chang went on to say that the move will be merely a "warm up" for labor actions to come. If the government does not respond to the requests of the unions, there will be more large-scale strikes in November, December and right before the presidential election in March of next year, Chang said.

In response to the statements recently made by Chang as well as the chairman of the Taiwan Railway Workers' Union Chen Han-ching (陳漢卿), we must solemnly point out that all the problems derived from these labor unions' plots to strike together have gone beyond the control of these union officials.

Any mishandling of the situation may escalate the whole thing into a "class struggle" economically, politically and socially. The result will be much more than mere polarization and conflict between the government and the unions. Rather, all of Taiwan society may fall into lawlessness and chaos. How can something like this be in the interest of everyone?

This begs the question why are the labor unions of state-run enterprises repeatedly seizing opportunities to encourage their members to escalate polarization between themselves and the government in the past few weeks? A glimpse of the answer can be seen from the fact that some politicians played a role in the Taiwan Railway Workers Union strike. They in fact do not even bother to cover up traces of their involvement.

Surely, no one could in all honesty believe that these moves are not related to the upcoming presidential election. In other words, while the grievences of these labor unions probably deserve the ears of the government and serve as a legitimate starting-point for reform, if anyone is seeking to campaign for any specific candidate under the pretense of opposing "privatization" of state-run enterprises and endorsing the right to strike, then we have a problem on our hands.

Therefore, we believe the union officials of the previously-mentioned state-run enterprises who claimed that there will be more joint actions are obliged to explain to the people of this country what is to be accomplished by the strikes and protests?

Frankly, if the demands of the unions are made in a rational manner, then the government has the responsibility to negotiate with union leaders. While the unions should not threaten to go on strike or hold a protest rally any time the government does not roll over, the government should not view all the activities of the union with prejudice. What the government should do is have all the relevant ministries form a cross-ministry task force to carefully examine the demands of the unions and to pragmatically resolve the problems associated with the state-run enterprises.

This story has been viewed 3257 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top