Change in pension status fight brewing

PAYOUT::The Examination Yuan said that a proposal affecting 1,000 government staffers would cost the government an additional NT$10.4 billion in payments

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jan 05, 2013 - Page 1

The Examination Yuan yesterday said it would seek a constitutional interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices if the legislature backed a Cabinet proposal that would allow about 1,000 government staffers to enjoy civil servant pension entitlements.

“If the legislature passed the bills, the only choice we have is to appeal to the Council of Grand Justices for a constitutional interpretation,” said Kuei Hung-chen (桂宏誠), head of Examination Yuan President John Kuan’s (關中) office.

At the center of the controversy is a series of amendments proposed by the Cabinet relating to the restructuring of the Bureau of Labor Insurance and Bureau of National Health Insurance, under which a total of 1,094 specialists — most of whom are financial experts — would be given the option to share the same benefits accorded to civil servants.

The employees, whose average age is 50, were recruited to work in the public sector through examinations that are different from the national examinations required for public functionaries. The examination system for the specialists was abolished in 1997.

If the specialists opt to have their status changed to civil servants, they may receive a lower monthly salary than they do now, but they will be given the choice of having their pension paid in monthly installments instead of a lump sum.

At a meeting of the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee on Thursday when the bills were deliberated, Civil Service Vice Minister Wu Tsung-cheng (吳聰成) voiced strong opposition to the revisions, saying it would cost the government an additional NT$10.4 billion (US$358.16 million) to cover the pension payments.

According to Wu, if a specialist who earns NT$47,000 a month were given the same option as a civil servant in choosing monthly pension payments when they retire after 30 years of service, they could receive as much as NT$14 million if they were to live 27.4 years past retirement.

In contrast, employees who choose to retain their status as specialists would only be able to claim a lump-sum payment of about NT$3 million after retirement, Wu said.

Lawmakers were divided on the issue. Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers were strongly opposed to the amendments, saying that specialists in other government agencies, such as the Financial Supervisory Commission, were not given the same choice when the agencies were restructured.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said his caucus was leaning toward supporting the Cabinet’s proposal, but added that he hoped the Cabinet and the Examination Yuan could iron out their differences first.