Hundreds of laid-off employees from several companies that were shut down more than a decade ago yesterday staged demonstrations in Taipei, protesting the government’s pursuit of the money from their severance packages.
Wearing signs that read: “I’m 71 years old, the government wants NT$320,000 [US$10,700] from me,” “I’m 61 years old, the government wants NT$100,000 from me,” and “I’m 62 years old, the government wants NT$270,000 from me,” several protesters stood in front of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) building, while hundreds of others held placards and banners accusing the government of deceiving them.
One giant banner summarized the stories of the protesters: “15 years ago, the boss shut down the company; 15 years later, the government pursues money from us: Are workers’ lives worthless?”
In 1998, when many companies were shut down, the heads of such companies declared bankruptcy and fled overseas. Workers who had been with the companies for decades were left without salaries, retirement payouts, severance pay or other benefits they were entitled to by law.
To solve the issue, the CLA at the time proposed allocating severance packages to these workers in the form of preferential loans.
The protesters said that they initially rejected the proposal, but eventually accepted it when the CLA promised that it would not ask them to pay back the loan, but would instead ask their employers to repay the money.
“That’s what we were told — we don’t have to worry about repayment, because the government would make the boss pay,” said a 78-year-old former employee from Lien-fu Textile Co (聯福紡織), surnamed Lai (賴). “So I was shocked when I got the notice [from the court asking me to repay the loan].”
“I worked with Lien-fu for more than 20 years, I’m entitled to the money,” she said. “I’m 78 years old, I’ve been unemployed since Lien-fu went out of business 15 years ago, how am I supposed to repay the NT$200,000?”
The protesters later marched to the Executive Yuan, where they staged another demonstration, before marching to the Presidential Office, where they continued demonstrating.
The government has not responded to the protesters’ calls.