Sat, Nov 19, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Agricultural firm insists on paying bonuses

BAD APPLES:Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co auctioneers might be colluding with suppliers to drive up prices in the city, Taipei City councilor Wang Wei-chung said

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, right, listens as general manager of Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co Han Kuo-yu, left, fields questions from city councilors at Taipei City Hall yesterday.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

Year-end bonuses for Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co employees would be canceled “over my dead body,” company general manager Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) said at the Taipei City Council yesterday.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei city councilors Wang Wei-chung (王威中) and Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) during a question-and-answer session yesterday criticized Han over what they said were “excessive” bonuses given to his employees for this year’s Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn festivals, totaling NT$132,000 (US$4,124) per person.

As the city government has a 22.7 percent stake in the company, Han was being generous at the expense of Taipei taxpayers, Kao said.

Kao criticized Han for spending NT$84 million of the company’s of NT$90 million revenue on employee bonuses, saying that it could encourage other companies in which the city government holds shares to pay their employees excessive bonuses.

Han said that Kao’s figures were incorrect, as the company has a net worth of more than NT$120.2 million after it paid NT$77 million last year in salaries, pensions, bonuses and health and labor insurance premiums.

He said that the company had previously distributed bonuses of about NT$15,000 every year, adding that the sharp increase was due to efficient financing and increasing produce prices.

He said that the bonuses are completely legal, as they were issued in accordance with the Company Act (公司法) and notarized by several accounting firms.

“As the general manager, I am obliged to share my company’s profits with my employees,” Han said.

The councilors questioned how the company turned its deficits into revenue after Han took office three years ago.

The Produce Packaging and Distribution Center, which is overseen by the company, supplies produce to prisons, schools, temples and hospitals, distributing an average of 400,000 tonnes of produce every day between January and September this year.

The center provides the company a privileged position akin to a monopoly, Wang said, adding that the center’s biggest suppliers might be affiliated with former Yunlin commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味), so the company could have manipulated produce prices for Chang, whose close ties with farmers’ associations and produce distributors, who supply the company, has allowed Chang to influence it.

Wang said that the company — which is responsible for auctioning produce and regulating produce prices — profits from its shares in farmers’ earnings during the auctioning process and that company auctioneers might be colluding with suppliers to drive up prices.

Wang asked Han if he would invite reporters to the city’s Second Produce Market to cover the auctioning process, to which Han replied he would.

Wang said that the surplus should be paid as bonuses to farmers or Taipei residents, rather than company employees.

Han rejected the proposal and the two engaged in an argument in which Han said a phrase used by one of his critics, DPP Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅): “I can tell you right now that I will definitely pay the bonuses. Over my dead body would they not be paid.”

Wang Shih-chien used the idiom during the Sunflower movement in 2014 while trying to stop former Bamboo Union gang leader Chang An-le (張安樂) and his supporters from approaching student protesters opposing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus’ passage of a cross-strait service trade agreement.

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