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Fri, Sep 28, 2001 - Page 2 News List

`Post' leadership hints at closure

MONEY PROBLEMS Efforts by new management to save the `Independent Evening Post' appear to be failing and the paper could shut down if finances don't improve

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

When a new team was introduced in late July to take over the cash-strapped Independent Evening Post (自立晚報), employees thought a changing of the guard would put the paper on a more solid footing. But reality appears to suggest otherwise.

"If the situation continues to deteriorate the way it has, the workers keep protesting and no financial backing can be found, the only solution is have the paper closed," Liu I-te (劉一德), president of the paper, said yesterday.

Two weeks ago, the paper's workers' union filed a lawsuit against its former chairman Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) and present chairman, Chang Fu-tai (張福泰). The suit accuses the two of embezzling NT$8 million in workers' insurance fees and failing to issue paychecks in July and August.

Only days later, the situation became more chaotic after the newly appointed Chang claimed his chairmanship wasn't valid because his appointment hadn't been approved by board members.

On July 26, it was widely reported that Chang, a doctor of Chinese medicine, had succeeded Wang as the Post's chairman.

But Chang said after the labor disputes re-emerged two weeks ago that he was being used by Wang as "a tool to evade his legal responsibilities."

On Tuesday, the paper's workers' union led a group of employees to protest in front of the DPP headquarters. They hoped the ruling party could help save the paper from perishing.

The group stressed their common ideology of challenging the KMT's dominance during its 54-year history and asked the DPP to expel Wang, a DPP Taipei City councilor, from the party.

But DPP authorities gave the petitioners a cold response, saying the party had no right to mete out a penalty to members who did not violate any party rules.

In the face of the paper's bleak financial outlook, Chang and Wang are denying any responsibility.

Chang told the Taipei Times yesterday that he was not able to offer any assistance for the time being, unless his status as the paper's chairman was cleared through the proper legal process.

Former chairman Wang said that his obligations with the paper were fulfilled when he handed over his managerial duties to the new team in July.

Wang said it was absurd to accuse him of embezzlement. According to Wang, the financial details concerning the newspaper have been made clear. He said the paper was NT$22 million in debt but was owed NT$37 million, meaning there was no deficit when he left.

A source at the newspaper told the Taipei Times yesterday that the paper's problems were not the fault of any individual, but were the combination of its protracted financial woes, its powerful and intransigent union and the fact that the new managers were unwilling to provide additional money.

There are 240 employees at the Post, who cost the paper NT$18 million per month.

Liu said it would be unfortunate if the paper was forced to close because under the new team, the paper has improved tremendously both in circulation and advertising.

"But if the union keeps pushing the management to the edge, the chance to find new capital will be very slim. Then the closing of the paper is inevitable," he said.

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