After striking for more than 20 days, more than 300 employees from Hualon Group’s synthetic fiber plant in Miaoli County’s Toufen Township (頭份) yesterday rallied outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei, calling on the government to help them in the wake of the company’s bankruptcy, as they are owed NT$700 million (US$23 million) in outstanding salary and pensions.
Chanting slogans and holding placards while wearing caps with the company’s name and the character ba (罷) for bagong (罷工, strike), the employees spoke angrily about their situation.
“I don’t want to be here protesting and wouldn’t be if everything had gone as planned in my life,” Hualon employee Chiu Yu-chu (邱玉珠) said. “But I have to stand up now because otherwise I could lose everything I have worked for over the past 30 years and my retirement plans could be destroyed.”
In tears, Chiu said that when Hualon Group declared bankruptcy, it asked its employees to transfer to Fung An Corp, which also produces synthetic fiber.
“After 30 years of work, I am eligible for a retirement pension of more than NT$1 million, according to a seniority-based pension plan, but if I transfer to Fung An, I would be forced to give up what I’ve -accumulated,” Chiu said. “I was planning to buy a house after retiring, I also planned to pay for my daughter’s college education with that money, but now it’s all gone.”
Hualon employees have not been paid their full salaries since 2001, as the company asked them to “help out” because it was in financial trouble.
“In 1991, we had our first strike because the company didn’t pay us for three months. As we negotiated, management asked us to sign an agreement saying that we would only be paid our salaries in full if the company made more than NT$1.5 billion that month,” employee Chiang Chien-lung (江建龍) said. “We rejected that, but management showed us financial statements, which showed that the company had made about NT$1.8 billion a month since 1989.”
Eventually, the employees signed the agreement, but from that point on “the company never made NT$1.5 billion a month again,” -Chiang said.
While Hualon and Fung An insist they are two separate companies unrelated to each other, most Hualon employees believe they are actually one company and that creating the second firm was a trick by the Hualon management.
Employee Yeh Tzu--ching (葉紫慶) said they have yet to receive their salaries for last month.
“The Miaoli County Government hosted negotiations between the employer and employees to settle the delayed salary payment issue on June 13 and the conclusion was that salaries should be paid to us by June 20,” he said. “But we haven’t received naything.”
Due to the controversies over salaries and accumulated pension entitlements, Hualon employees have been on strike and occupying the factory since June 6.
Following the protest, the -Hualon employees attended a public hearing hosted by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) at the Legislative Yuan.
After the public hearing, the workers marched to Taipei Railway Station where they staged a camp-out protest.
Council of Labor Affairs official Wang Hou-wei (王厚偉) said at the public hearing that the council would help to bring the employer and the employees together to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement.