Despite written in black and white in a publication, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) denied that it promised a group of laid-off workers 16 years ago that it would ask their runaway employers to repay a loan given to the workers as retirement payouts, triggering criticism from the public.
In 1997, when several companies — including Lien-fu Textile Co (聯福紡織), Dong-ling Electronics Co (東菱電子) and Fu-chang Electronics Co (福昌電子) — closed their doors without prior notice and their bosses declared bankruptcy, the council assisted the newly jobless workers by giving them retirement payouts using government funds, and promised that it would ask their employers, not the workers themselves, to repay the debt.
However, in recent years, many of these workers have received requests from the CLA asking them to repay their loans, and those who were unable to pay have been sued by the council.
The workers, as well as labor rights groups, have petitioned and staged numerous protests, including paralyzing the rail service at Taipei Railway Station on Tuesday.
On Thursday, some Internet users found a book on the history of the labor movement published by the CLA in 2011, in which Hsu Chieh-kui (許介圭), who served as the head of the council in 1997, was quoted as saying that the council did not intend to ask the workers to repay their loans, but would ask their employers to pay back the full amount.
However, the council yesterday denied that the official publication represents the council’s official view.
“The writing of the book was commissioned to a group of researchers. What it represents are the views of the researchers, as well as reports by media outlets at the time,” a council statement said. “The content of the book represents neither the official view nor the basis on which the government handles the issue.”
The CLA’s response triggered criticism from Internet users.
“If an official publication does not represent the official view, then what is it good for?” a Facebook user called Tsung-ying (蹤影) said.
“Bu it’s written in black on white!” said another Facebook user, Nicole Lin (林凱雯).
In addition to the book, CLA officials were at the time quoted by several newspapers, including the Chinese-language United Evening News and Economic Daily News, as saying that the money given to the workers was to be repaid by their employers, not the workers themselves.
CLA Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) did not respond to the Taipei Times’ request for comment.