The National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories yesterday vowed to continue fighting for the interests and dignity of workers by staging a series of protests this year that will begin with a rally at Taipei Railway Station today.
Today’s protest is scheduled to begin at 3pm and marks the one-year anniversary of a demonstration the group staged last year at the station that made headlines across the nation.
The organization was formed by former employees of several large factories who either retired or were laid off 16 years ago without receiving any severance or retirement pay after their workplaces were shut down.
To assist these workers, the government agreed to give them loans that had to be repaid only after they had found new jobs. However, the workers then started receiving payment due notices from the Council of Labor Affairs asking them to pay back the loans, including interest and late fees.
The notices sparked a series of protests, with labor rights advocates arguing that the government should not ask the former employees to repay the loans because the council was party to blame for failing to ensure that the employers had sufficient funds for their staff’s retirement payouts.
The council also neglected to seek compensation from the employers after they shut down their factories, the alliance said.
The loans that the laid-off workers received should be considered as part of a “national compensatory fund” to repair the damage done by the government’s administrative negligence, the rights advocates added.
The plight of the alliance members came into the national spotlight on Feb. 5 last year when nearly 100 workers paralyzed the Taiwan Railways Administration system by jumping off the platforms and laying on the tracks at Taipei Railway Station.
“It [the protest] let the public see the workers’ desperation and persecution at the hands of the government, but it did not serve as a wake-up call for the government. Tragic things continue to happen and people without means are still being treated unfairly, as can be seen in incidents ranging from the forced demolition of civilians’ houses in Dapu [(大埔), Miaoli County], to the truck driver who rammed his truck through the entrance of Presidential Office Building,” the alliance said on Facebook.
“As the new year begins, we have no other choice but to continue fighting. We will go back to Taipei Railway Station and pray that the protests will proceed smoothly and everyone will eventually live in peace,” it said.