Labor activists protest government policies

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 - Page 3

A group of workers and labor rights advocates yesterday protested against the government’s labor policies in front of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) headquarters, urging President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to address issues such as illegal layoffs and a “hostile” work environment.

Chanting slogans and raising placards that read” “Ma Ying-jeou the bumbler,” activists and laid-off workers lashed out at the Council of Labor Affairs for listing a NT$20 million (US$688,000) budget for suing workers over a disputed loan, and said Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, should instruct the KMT legislative caucus to cancel the budget.

“The great KMT Chairman Ma needs to ask the caucus to veto the budget that is used against workers; otherwise, his administration will leave a big stain on the history of labor rights in Taiwan,” they said.

The group also performed a skit, with members donning masks of Ma and other government officials to mock government incompetence, and accused the council of trying to take away their life savings by suing them over disputed loans.

The dispute was sparked about 15 years ago when the company, Hualon Textile, asked employees to accept lower salaries. The workers were then offered an opportunity to transfer to Fung An Textile Co — another textile company run by Hualon — on the condition they first give up all accumulated annuity for retirement payouts. At that time, the council provided retirement payouts to laid-off workers as loans and said the employees would not be asked to repay the money, as it would get the money back from their employer.

The situation worsened last year, when Hualon began to fall into arrears, with some employees being owed months of back wages, leading to protests earlier this year.

The council then filed lawsuits against the more than 400 workers who received the loans, saying it wanted the money back.

Although the council agreed in August to suspend the lawsuits for four months after repeated protests by the workers, and while Pan promised to come up with a solution within a year when he took office early last month, no solution has been forthcoming and the council continues to list a budget for the lawsuit for the next fiscal year.

Ma and the KMT did not respond to the protesters, with Ma presiding over the KMT Central Standing Committee at the headquarters.

The committee yesterday invited National Science Council Minister Cyrus Chu (朱敬一) to present a report on the nation’s technological development, as he called on the government to address a brain drain that is threatening the nation’s economic and technological development.