Tue, Aug 13, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Groups wrangle over protest date

By Chang Yu-jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Labor-union representatives announce their plan for a large-scale protest against the proposed hikes in health insurance-premiums yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Leaders of labor unions yesterday announced that laborers and members of professional groups would take to the streets on Aug. 27 to protest against the government's plan to hike the payments of National Health Insurance (NHI) that go into effect next month.

However, representatives from Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU, 全國產業總工會) said that they have not decided whether to join the demonstration on Aug. 27, saying the TCTU has decided to launch its own protest in front of the Executive Yuan on Aug. 14.

In July, the Department of Health announced a plan to raise the NHI premiums from Sept. 1 to sustain the nation's health-insurance program for two more years.

Under the scheme, the NHI premiums would be raised from the current 4.25 percent to 4.75 percent of a person's monthly salary and outpatients can expect charges of up to NT$710 per visit at the point of medical treatment.

In a press conference yesterday, PFP lawmaker and the president of the Chinese Federation of Labor (CFL, 全國總工會), Lin Hui-kuan (林惠官), said that "Since our effort in warning the NHI not to raise the fee without carefully addressing objections was in vain, we will take to the streets to tell our government that all the nationals detest their decision.

"By doing so, we hope that the government can give the plan a second thought before enforcing the fee hike while the economy is slumping and the unemployment rate remains high."

Lin also accused the Cabinet of "deliberately announcing the fee-hike plan when the Legislative Yuan is not in session to evade lawmakers' interference."

Established in 1948, the CFL, Taiwan's largest and oldest federation of trade unions, has more than 3 million members nationwide while the TCTU, established only two years ago, consists of 280,000 members.

The press conference, organized by Lin and KMT lawmaker Hou Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳), was attended by representatives from eight labor unions including CFL, the National Labor Union, the Labor Legislation Action Council (工人立法行動委員會) and Confederation of Taipei Trade Unions (台北市產業總工會).

CFL aims to gather more than 50,000 laborers from around the nation to join the demonstration, during which the protesters will march to the DPP's headquarters, Executive Yuan and the Presidential Office.

During the press conference, however, TCTU General-Secretary Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) said, "Since we were not informed of the proposed [Aug. 27] demonstration when CFL and other labor unions prepared for it, we have decided to organize our own protest on Aug. 14."

Huang Jen-wei (黃真瑋), secretary of the CFL, told the Taipei Times that the CFL and the National Labor Union had held their own separate internal meetings to discuss launching individual protests.

"But later we thought it might be better if all major trade unions could jointly demonstrate. That is when we sent out invitations to the other six major labor unions regarding today's press conference," she said.

Kuo also said that the TCTU had not yet decided whether to participate in the demonstration on Aug. 27 because "we have to further discuss whether our stance and opinion toward the hike in NHI fees matches those of the other labor unions."

"TCTU is not totally against the raise in NHI fee and we understand that there is an urgent need to solve the financial problems faced by our NHI program," Kuo said.

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