More than 200 people from several labor unions and self-help groups held a traditional pudu (普渡) ceremony as they protested in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday saying that the government has neglected their rights, and they would rather worship the gods and the dead than rely on the administration for help.
The groups represent former workers of companies that shut down, but still owed wages to their employees.
Setting up tables stacked with food and paper money for the gods and spirits, the groups said that although they have protested several times the government still has not come up with any solutions.
Protesters called on the government to return them their “coffin expenses,” funds saved for retirement and funeral expenses, which they said would only require amending one article of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
“People hold pudu ceremonies to offer feasts to feed the dead, but who will take care of the workers?” the protesters said.
Taipei City Confederation of Trade Unions secretary Chen Shu-lun (陳淑倫) said the activists want the government to modify Article 28 of the act to protect workers by including redundancy pay and retirement payouts in state repayment of wage arrears.
Although the Council of Labor Affairs agreed in May to amend the law within three months, it has yet to propose its draft amendment.
Chu Wei-li (朱維立), executive director of the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said that many of the protesters have been owed money by former employers for more than 16 years and were now being fooled by the council.
Chu was referring to the council suing the workers to pay back loans it gave to them instead of retirement payouts when their employers went bankrupt, and which the workers say they were told they would not have to repay.
“These people have worked hard all their lives and have contributed to the nation’s economic growth, but the government refuses to take care of them,” he said. “It has not come up with any good solutions to our problems.”
“It’s no use asking the government for help, so we pray to the gods and the dead to help us,” Hsieh Yen-hung (謝燕紅), chairperson of a self-help group of laid-off workers from Lien-fu Textiles Co, a company which shut down in 1996 and owes its employees their retirement payout, redundancy pay and salaries.
Wearing masks of government officials, representatives of various unions and groups performed a skit that involved hacking at a wooden box shaped like a coffin, bearing a message that read: “Rights should not be discounted” and “Return our coffin expenses.”
Shouting: “We would rather burn money for the dead, than pay taxes to the government,” protesters burned a large pile of paper money in an iron net, prompting the police to raise a sign to inform them that their behavior was against the law.
Shortly after, several demonstrators clashed with police as officers tried to get close to the iron net, which the activists interpreted as an attempt to douse the flames.
The protesters then extinguished the burning paper money and scattered the ashes into the air.
They plan to hold protests on Sept. 16 at the Legislative Yuan and on Sept. 29 at Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) headquarters.