Laid-off Auto21 workers protest

EMPTY-HANDED::The former employees are angry because the firm declared bankruptcy and laid them off without paying salaries, pensions or other benefits

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 - Page 3

Hundreds of workers laid off by automaker Auto21 yesterday organized a “memorial service” for the company’s credit outside its headquarters in Taipei, since they are still owed salaries, retirement pensions and unemployment payouts totaling more than NT$700 million (US$24 million) after several years.

Setting up a funeral altar with a photo of Auto21 chairman Hsu Sheng-fa (許勝發) placed in the center, hundreds of the firm’s former employees, wearing white headbands with the words “give me my hard-earned money back” written on them, held a memorial service, declaring that the credibility of the company and Hsu was dead.

However, instead of paying respect to the portrait of the deceased as one would usually do at a funeral, the demonstrators threw eggs at Hsu’s photograph.

The former employees are angry because about four years ago the company declared bankruptcy and laid off as many as 1,000 employees, without paying their salaries, retirement pensions or unemployment payouts.

“The government should immediately launch a probe into the cash flow of the former Auto21 chairman, because he has appeared in the media living in a luxury apartment building, riding in luxury cars and holding luxury wedding banquets [for his granddaughter],” said Lin Kuang-yao (林光耀), a former manager at the company. “Yet he tells us that he’s broke and he evidently does not care about the suffering of his former employees — many of them have committed suicide as a result of the economic pressure they have faced.”

“My wife and I had both worked at Auto21 for more than 10 years and we both became unemployed all of a sudden,” a former employee in his 60s surnamed Yu (余) said. “We’re suffering financially, because it’s really hard for us to find another job because of our age.”

Another former employee surnamed Lo (羅), who retired four years ago just before the company declared bankruptcy, is still owed more than NT$300,000 in retirement pension.

“I am already 60 years old and am a single mother, life is hard,” she said. “I only do some temporary jobs and make minimal money. The boss should not leave us suffering while he still has so much money at his disposal.”

Lin said the former employees need help from the government and the legislature because under current laws, banks have the priority in getting repayment of debts over individuals.

“So, though Auto21 has sold its properties and equipment for a total of more than NT$10 billion over the past few years, we, the former employees, have not received even NT$1,” Lin said.