Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday failed to win support from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers for his plan to limit coverage of year-end pension benefits for government retirees, prolonging the month-long debate further.
After a KMT caucus meeting attended by Chen, KMT caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said the caucus would not make a decision on the issue until next month, when the government’s proposed budget for next year is reviewed in the legislature.
“Most caucus members felt that the Executive Yuan failed to thoroughly discuss the issue with them in advance,” Wu said.
However, the caucus supported Chen’s idea to make the pension distribution a statutory practice, as opposed to the current practice in which it is not enshrined in law and is reviewed on an annual basis, Wu said.
Since 1972, retired civil servants, public school teachers and military personnel who opted to receive retirement benefits in monthly installments instead of one lump sum, have received the year-end bonus ahead of Lunar New Year. The bonus was distributed annually with only a few exemptions, when the benefit was suspended or the amount scaled down due to fiscal constraints.
Late last month, Chen responded positively to the Democratic Progressive Party’s suggestion that the budget be cut to address concerns over inequalities within the social welfare system, an issue highlighted by the government’s hesitance to guarantee pensions under the Labor Insurance Fund, which is facing bankruptcy.
Under Chen’s plan, recipients of the bonus for Lunar New Year next year would be limited to two groups — retirees or the families of deceased retirees who receive a monthly pension of less than NT$20,000 and families of retirees who were killed, injured or disabled in war or during military exercises.
At the meeting, Chen apologized to KMT lawmakers for “not being sensitive enough” when deciding to downsize the coverage of the bonuses, which has drawn the ire of the recipients traditionally seen as supporters of the KMT.