Sat, Sep 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

TSU probes hiring practices for MRT sites in Kaohsiung

DIGGING DIRT Taiwan Solidarity Union caucus members have taken a hard line on the activities of the Kaohsiung MRT authority, and are asking if it violated various rules

BY JENNY CHOU  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus yesterday called into question the legitimacy of the process by which the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp hires foreign laborers.

The caucus made the inquries at a press conference during which officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Financial Supervisory Commission and Kaohsiung's Bureau of Labor Affairs were invited to discuss issues concerning the Aug. 21 riot of Thai laborers working on the Kaohsiung MRT line.

Representatives from the International Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) -- which provided the loan for the provision of the laborers' living arrangements -- were also at hand to answer questions.

ISSUES

The TSU caucus raised a number of issues, including why accommodations designed to house 800 people had 1,717 laborers living inside, as well as how it was that Hua Pan Corp, the company that managed the laborers, was able to use capital of just NT$5 million to take out a mortgage worth NT$40 million.

The caucus was particularly concerned as to why Hua Pan found it necessary to take out a mortgage to build the housing in the first place, considering that the cost of hiring each Thai laborer -- NT$29,000 -- was already supposed to include funds that would cover living arrangements.

MORTGAGE

Furthermore, the caucus wanted to know why the ICBC allowed Hua Pan to take out a mortgage eight times the amount of its capital, without the provision of a security deposit.

In response, the ICBC said that when considering an application for a mortgage, the main issues of concern were: what the mortgage was to be used for; how the borrowing party planned to pay back the loan; and what the cash-flow rate of the borrowing party was -- and not just the amount of the mortgage on its own.

TSU legislators also made accusations of embezzlement, claiming that hiring a Thai laborer required five middlemen before reaching the laborers themselves, amounting to a total sum of NT$180,000 for each Thai laborer.

MYSTERY

The lawmakers also attempted to uncover the mystery of why only NT$15,840 out of the workers' NT$29,000 monthly pay package was actually received by the laborers.

Finally, the lawmakers asked why it was that the NT$1,000 that was supposed to be deposited monthly into each Thai laborer's account since the beginning of the construction of the MRT system had never been deposited.

In response to the issues raised, representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the Financial Supervisory Commission said they could only provide initial responses, saying that due to security issues involving the investigations, they could not provide any detailed answers at present.

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