Sat, Jul 21, 2012 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: RPTI employees demand millions owed in salaries

STRUCK OUT:The debt-ridden company has withheld wages for months in the latest case of destitute workers pleading, unsuccessfully, for government intervention

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Employees of RPTI International, a power systems company, protest at the legislature yesterday over delayed salaries and missing retirement payouts.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Following several recent incidents, employees of RPTI International, a power systems company, have launched a strike to protest delayed salaries and missing retirement payouts.

Dozens of RPTI employees representing 300 of their colleagues yesterday called on the government to help them, as they are owed three to five months of wages, and many of those who have worked in the company for decades are worried they will not get their retirement payouts.

“I’ve been with RPTI for 14 years, and I’ve not been paid for three months already,” an RPTI employee in his 40s surnamed Chen (陳) said. “I may not have as much pressure, since I’m single, but I still have to pay for my housing loan and take care of my parents — I’ve had zero income in the past three months and have been spending my savings.”

Chen said he and his colleagues spoke with the management several times about the issue and “all they could tell us is that they don’t have sufficient money and asked us employees to work hard with the company to overcome the hardship.”

RPTI is a private corporation created by the Executive Yuan’s Veterans’ Affairs Commission (VAC) in 1975 and with most of its funding coming from state-run businesses such as Taiwan Power Co and Chunghwa Telecommunications Co. Since its founding, RPTI has been a contractor for power, electrical, mechanical and information technology facilities for many private or public construction projects.

However, RPTI is NT$4 billion (US$133 million) in debt and owes employees over NT$17 million in salaries and retirement payouts.

“The VAC and the Executive Yuan are to be held responsible for the problems, they ought to come up with solutions,” Confederation of Taipei Trade Unions chairman Chiang Wan-chin (蔣萬金) told a news conference yesterday.

“Although RPTI is officially registered as a private enterprise, its chairpersons have always been appointed by the government,” Chiang said. “The government has enjoyed all the profits, it cannot just abandon RPTI when its business is doing badly.”

The Council of Labor Affairs’ (CLA) Department of Labor Relations official Lo Chung-cheng (羅忠政) said the council recognizes the problem and understands the workers’ decision to go on strike, but that the council could not do much.

He said RPTI has a severe cash shortage and many workers have not received pay since February.

“I fully understand why they have decided to maintain the strike since last Wednesday and I respect that decision,” Lo said. “The CLA and the Taipei City Department of Labor are closely monitoring the situation and are urging RPTI to obtain the cash necessary to solve the problem. As far as we know, the company is having some difficulties in gathering money and the city’s labor department has already fined it for owing months of salaries.”

VAC secretary-general Lu Chia-kai (呂嘉凱) made similar comments on the issue.

“I have to say that it was because of your [the employees’] hard work that RPTI achieved what it did in the past, but the regrettable fact is that the company is suffering from a cash shortage,” Lu said. “The VAC is taking up its responsibility to help RPTI in its efforts to gather enough money and we’re also trying to figure out different ways to provide help.”

“Unfortunately, as a government agency, we must follow the law, and there are restrictions in law that hold us back from having some breakthroughs at the moment,” he added.

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