Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Ma under fire over KMT sunset plan

RESENTMENT Party members are complaining about being forced into retirement, but the party chairman insists downsizing is needed to trim the KMT's personnel costs

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) plan to lay off more than 1,000 party workers has come under harsh criticism, with some accusing the party's leader of "treachery" for forcing them to retire.

The party currently employees roughly 1,600 people, but plans to cut back to slash its payroll to just 600 in order to reduce personnel expenses -- which total NT$200 million (US$6 million) per month.

The party already eased some of its workers into retirement before the Dec. 3 local government elections, and about 460 more are expected to retire by the middle of the month.

Although the cutbacks were approved by the KMT's Central Standing Committee in March as part of a party reform package, some employees have accused the party of forcing them into retirement.

"The party suggested that we take advantage of the chance to get preferential pensions, and said that there won't be such benefits later if we miss this opportunity," Liu Chien-sung (劉建崧), director of the KMT union, said yesterday.

Liu blamed KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), accusing him of breaking his promise that the party would not force party workers to retire.

The resentment about Ma's persistence on the retirement plan, as well as the party's other reform efforts, has reportedly prompted many top KMT officials -- including the director of the KMT's mainland affairs department Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭) -- to apply for retirement.

But Chang yesterday denied harboring any resentment against the chairman.

"I cooperated with the party's plan and followed the rules to apply for retirement. There is no resentment," he said.

Facing mounting complaints from within his party, Ma yesterday remained firm on the matter, and made clear that the retirement plan as well as other party reforms must go on.

"The personnel rearrangement program was approved before I was elected as KMT chairman, and I am just implementing the policy," he said.

Ma said that massive personnel expenses have been a heavy burden for the KMT. He urged party workers to understand the need for the party to alleviate that burden with the retirement plan.

"If any of the retired party workers wish to continue working for the KMT, we welcome them to come back as volunteers," he added.

Meanwhile, Ma confirmed yesterday that KMT party elder Chen Li-fu (陳立夫) had expressed an interest in buying the Central Daily News, a KMT-owned newspaper.

After the party sold its three media outlets to China Times Corp recently, the fate of the two remaining party newspapers -- Central Daily News and Chinese Daily News has been a focus of speculation.

Ma yesterday said that a daughter-in-law of Chen, a former chairman of the Central Daily News, called to say that Chen was interested in purchasing the newspaper.

"The Central Daily News has a long history. It has existed alongside the KMT over the past 100 years, and we will handle the issue carefully," he said.

Ma added that the party will meet with Chen's daughter-in-law to discuss further details about the possible purchase.

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