Nearly 100 former Hualon Group employees yesterday engaged in violent clashes with police and security guards as they forced their way into the headquarters of Fung An Corp — seen as Hualon’s successor — in New Taipei City (新北市) to call on management to pay them the pensions they are owed.
“Come out, [Fung An chief executive] Liang Ching-hsiung [梁清雄], give us our hard-earned money back,” the retired workers shouted, calling on Liang to come out pay them the money they have been owed for years.
A few minutes before the clashes broke out, the protesters were peacefully singing songs recounting their suffering and urging Fung An management to meet them.
However, as their calls went unanswered, the mood turned to anger and the crowd rushed the building.
Police and corporate security guards were taken by surprise, and after failing to stop the onrushing protesters, the latter made it into the lobby, pushing and wrestling with security personnel.
After many of the mostly elderly protesters fell during the clash — with one rushed to a hospital as a result — they decided to sit down in front of the elevator hall, blocking the entrance as they continued to call on Liang to meet them.
“We are here trying to get back what we’re supposed to get. Why are police protecting the capitalist who represses workers, but not the victims?” asked Lin Tsui-ai (林翠藹), a former Hualon employee who retired in 2008 after 26 years at the company and is owed nearly NT$1.4 million (US$47,000).
Recounting that when she forgot to pay the taxes on her car before the deadline, she promptly received notices asking her to pay what she owed, as well as additional fines for being late, Lin said: “The government acts so efficiently when the people owe them money, yet it is reluctant to help us get what is ours.”
“Why do we need to pay so much tax to keep this government for?” she asked.
Having been in financial trouble since 1987, Hualon asked its retiring employees to sign an agreement to allow the firm to pay their retirement payouts in instalments over several years starting in 2002. However, most of the retirees received only part of what they are owed and many got nothing.
In 2011, Hualon’s management created Fung An and sold most of its equipment and its factory in Miaoli County’s Toufen Township (頭份) to the new enterprise. Liang, who was formerly Hualon’s chief executive, took over as CEO of Fung An.
Retired worker Lin Jui-lien (林瑞蓮) accused Liang of robbing her.
“I retired in 2009 after working at Hualon for 18 years, and I’m entitled to about NT$700,000 in retirement payout,” she said, showing a copy of the agreement that Hualon’s management had signed with her.
“They promised they would finish paying me this year, with interest, but so far, I’ve only got NT$15,695 in interest payments,” Lin Jui-lien said.
After her husband passed away when she was 33, the 60-year-old brought her son up on her own. When he was found to have diabetes and his health deteriorated, Lin Jui-lien paid NT$800,000 for him to have a pancreas transplant.
“I didn’t have the money, so I had to borrow a lot,” she said. “I planned to repay my debts with my retirement payout, but now that Liang has robbed me of the money, what am I going to do?”
After occupying the lobby for a couple of hours, the ex-workers had to return to Toufen empty-handed after being told that no one in management would be there that day.