Sat, Jan 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Teachers’ union to protest pensions

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

The National Federation of Teachers’ Unions yesterday announced plans for protests against aspects of the government’s pension reform plans, as it continues to tread a careful line between support and outright opposition.

“In our view, this is an abrupt reform which is just what we feared in the past, and it will influence teacher turnover. Training of new teachers might as well be stopped for 10 years,” union president Chang Hsu-cheng (張旭政) said, announcing plans for protests outside local governments around the nation next week.

He cited Executive Yuan Pension Reform Office plans which would immediately increase the seniority required for teachers to retire by five years followed by annual hikes of at least one year which would keep most teachers from retiring until 60.

“As far as we can see, the only teachers who would be able to take advantage of the transition period [to retire before 60] are those who graduated from junior colleges before 1971, because they began teaching at 20 and have extra seniority,” he said, while also criticizing the government for failing to specify why and how it would conduct reconsideration of reforms after five years under official plans.

“They’re cutting pension payments, but they do not specify how they will make pensions sustainable,” he said, adding that the plans also fail to specify how the government is to address the chronic underfunding of pension funds.

Union protests are to occur mainly during school vacations to avoid affecting students, with local union officials stating they would be “soft and firm” without “causing trouble.”

While local protests are intended to influence the national government by putting pressure on Democratic Progressive Party local governments, there are currently no plans for national protests, Chang said, adding that that union measures constituted “action to express controversy” rather than “taking a stand against” pension reform.

“We’re using the term ‘action to express controversy’ because we still support the government’s pension reform, but we also believe that the government is acting as an ‘evil employer’ by refusing to acknowledge its responsibilities and guaranteeing the sustainability of pension funds,” he said.

The union is notable as one of the few which has drafted a pension reform proposal, last year drawing criticism from competing unions for refusing to endorse a massive demonstration against pension reform.

It has since grown increasingly critical of the government’s pension reform reportedly because of pressure from its members.

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