Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳怡臻) and labor activists yesterday lashed out at Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) over remarks in which she said she was not a goddess and cannot resolve all the problems of the workers at Hualon Corp, who are seeking back salaries and retirement packages.
“Of course Wang is not a goddess, but she’s the CLA minister, and she must remember it’s her responsibility to stand up for workers and help solve their problems,” Wu told a press conference at the legislature in Taipei.
Wu was referring to a remark Wang made on Wednesday when talking to reporters about an ongoing strike by Hualon employees that started in June.
Workers at the company’s main factory in Toufen Township (頭份), Miaoli County, launched the strike over salary cuts that have been imposed in recent years, which their employer attributes to financial pressures.
The situation took a turn for the worse in June last year when several employees were asked to give up their pensions and redundancy payouts, while others were not paid their salaries. The company owes a total of NT$260 million (US$8.6 million) to its employees.
Facing protests, the company responded by asking them to accept compromise deals, while the government did nothing, workers said.
“I think an employer owing employees more than NT$260 million already constitutes a sizable labor dispute and it’s time for the government to do something,” Taiwan Labour Front secretary-general Son Yu-lian (孫友聯) said. “It doesn’t matter whether the minister is a goddess, we only care that she tries her best to support the workers.”
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is the chairman of the governing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) is a KMT member and the new owner of Hualon Corp, Miaoli County Council Vice Speaker Chen Chao-ming (陳朝明), is also a KMT member, Son said, adding that it should not be too difficult for Ma to help negotiate a deal that would protect the workers’ rights if the president truly cares about the situation.
“I think it’s time for Ma to come out and help,” Son said.
Hung Ching-shu (洪敬舒) of the Alliance for Fair Tax Reform said he was not surprised that the government is staying out of the dispute.
“The government only cares about big corporations. Whenever business leaders complain about something, they always find ways to help, even when it means amending the law, but when workers are in trouble the government just says that it can’t help,” Hung said.
Wu and the labor activists urged the public to write to the president to pressure him to act.