Tue, Sep 20, 2005 - Page 3 News List

New head of labor council takes up post

BY JENNY CHOU  /  STAFF REPORTER

Council of Labor Affairs Chairman Lee Ying-yuan, center, visits Thai laborers' dormitories in Kaohsiung's Kangshan Township yesterday. He said he was satisfied with the meals provided for the workers, as well as the improvements that have been made to their living conditions.

PHOTO: WANG JUNG-HSIANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Management of worker pension funds and reviewing policies on foreign labor are the immediate priorities of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), the new head of the agency, said yesterday during a handover ceremony that formally ended Chen Chu's (陳菊) term as chair.

Vice Premier Wu Rong-i (吳榮義), who presided over the ceremony, began by thanking Chen for her work during her five years in office, saying that it deserved the utmost respect.

As CLA chair, "Chen completed many `mission impossibles' such as pushing forward the new retirement pension scheme for 4 million laborers," Wu said.

Wu was referring to the new retirement pension scheme which took effect in July which sets aside 6 percent of employees' salaries each month.

In her farewell speech, Chen said she hoped the CLA would persist in fighting for "the rights of the underdog, laborers and Aborigines.

Of Lee, Chen said, "I have known Lee for over 20 years and I feel safe leaving matters in his hands, knowing his passion and loyalty to Taiwan."

"I know that Lee will turn the CLA into a respected body. Taiwan has over 8 million laborers whose voices need to be heard. Lee recognizes this need and he will do the job," she said.

Lee said he had mixed feelings about taking up the position.

Whilst expressing regret at Chen's resignation, Lee said: "Leaving my post as [Executive Yuan] secretary-general has on both occasions been unexpected, but I've been glad to do it."

Lee said that the CLA needed to stand on Chen's shoulders and complete what she started, referring to the retirement pension policy.

"We can't let Sister Chen sacrifice herself for nothing," he added.

Lee said an important priority of the CLA was to have the Supervisory Board of the Civil Servants Pension Fund passed at the legislature so that laborers' pension funds could begin to be managed and pension plans secured.

Another main priority according to Lee was for the agency to "stand up from where it had fallen," in regard to the management of Thai laborers.

Last month, Thai laborers working on the construction of the Kaohsiung mass rapid transit system rioted in protest at poor working conditions.

Lee said that it was necessary to strengthen and review policies concerning the number of foreign laborers who could work in Taiwan and their classification, as well as the procedures of companies that bring the laborers into the country.

Lee also said that the incident involving the Thai laborers was a one-off case, as Thai officials had recognized, and did not reflect Taiwan's general attitude toward democracy and human rights, something that has been recognized worldwide for many years.

After the ceremony, Lee left for Kaohsiung to view the new living arrangements set up for the Thai laborers.

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