The Council of Grand Justices yesterday ruled that most legal changes made for pension reforms pertaining to public-sector employees and civil servants are constitutional.
In Constitutional Interpretations No. 781, 782 and 783, the council said that the legislation mostly conformed with the Constitution, which provided legal backing for the government’s push for pension system reform.
The only item found to be unconstitutional stipulated that retired civil servants, military personnel and public-school teachers would be ineligible to receive government pensions if they take jobs at private institutions, which typically have higher wages than equivalent positions in the public sector.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
The clause is unconstitutional, as it goes against the principle of equal rights, the council said.
The other legislation — regarding issues such as the government’s promise for pension payments, the legality of retroactive measures and the protection of private property — are constitutional, it said.
The ruling was in response to challenges by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators to the constitutionality of the legislation, with Interpretation No. 781 covering military personnel, No. 782 pertaining to civil servants and No. 783 covering educators at public schools and national universities.
Retired lieutenant general Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) led groups of veterans and public employees in a rally outside the Judicial Yuan after the rulings were announced.
The KMT expressed regret over the rulings, while the Democratic Progressive Party caucus said that they affirmed the legitimacy and necessity of the pension reforms.
The legislation to reform the pensions of civil servants, military personnel and public-school educators were passed by the Legislative Yuan between 2017 and last year.
Later yesterday, Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) told a news conference at the Executive Yuan that a preliminary tally showed that 407 retired public-school teachers, 150 veterans and 612 retired civil servants who have taken up teaching posts at private schools would start being paid government pensions from yesterday.
Relevant agencies would ascertain the exact number of people whose rights have been reinstated by the interpretations and reimburse them for the pensions they should have received "from yesterday," he added.
The interpretations mean that unconstitutional items in the Act Governing Civil Servants’ Retirement, Discharge and Pensions (公務人員退休資遣撫卹法); the Act Governing Retirement, Severance and Bereavement Compensation for the Teaching and Other Staff Members of Public Schools (公立學校教職員退休資遣撫卹條例); and the Act of Military Service for Officers and Non-commissioned Officers of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍軍官士官服役條例) would be removed through legal amendments, he said.
Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) urged the public to stop referring to retired public-sector employees who have taken jobs at private schools as “double-salaried fat cats,” saying that it would be unfair to them, as working for private schools in retirement is just like working for other private companies.
Deputy Minister of Education Lin Teng-chiao (林騰蛟) said that the Ministry of Education would engage with teachers’ groups concerned about the lifting of the rule jeopardizing unemployed teachers’ chances of finding jobs.
Regarding a declaration by the council that a clause stipulating that pensions or alimony to bereaved families of retirees must be adjusted should fluctuations in the consumer price index exceed 5 percentage points is at odds with the reforms’ basic spirit of setting reasonable pension rates and income replacement ratios, Lin said that the rule would also be amended accordingly.
The existing rule might see some pensions raised to almost the same as the salaries earned by active public servants, which would somewhat twist the purpose of the pensions, he added.
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