Amid protests against the government’s labor policies, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday promised to present pension and fiscal reform programs next month to prevent the bankruptcy of the Labor Insurance Fund.
Ma, in a closed-door forum with labor unions organized by the Council for Labor Affairs (CLA), said the fund could suffer a deficit in six or seven years because of the aging society, and the planned pension reform aims to make the pension mechanism sustainable.
“The pension system is confronted with problems like insufficient funds and unfair treatment of different generations and industries. It’s our priority to make the mechanism fairer and allow our next generations to be protected with a retirement pension plan as well,” he said.
Statistics from the government showed that the proportion of people over 65 years of age in Taiwan will increase from 11 percent to 39 percent by 2060, and it is urgent that the government starts pension reforms now, he said, saying the government would hold forums around the nation to gather input from the public on the issue.
The two-hour forum was open for the press for only seven minutes and tight security was employed around the area to keep a group of protesters away from Ma as they launched a protest outside the forum venue.
Shouting: “Workers to beggars” and “the incompetent Ma administration takes money from workers to boost the economy,” members of the Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories (AWCF) accused the CLA of trying to take away their life savings by suing them over disputed loans that were given to them in place of their retirement payouts when their employers absconded 15 or 16 years ago, and urged the council to drop the lawsuit.
The council promised to pay the workers in the form of loans that the employers would repay. However, after 15 years, the council filed lawsuits against the more than 400 workers who received payments and asked them to pay the money back, the alliance said.
“The government is blind. We workers are invisible in their eyes. They say they will take care of the workers and protect our rights, but they are suing us and trying to take away our savings,” a 56-year-old protester surnamed Lin said.
Taiwan Workers’ Association researcher Wu Yung-yi (吳永毅) said that if the council failed to drop the lawsuit, Ma should have Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) replace CLA Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) because he is not qualified to govern labor affairs, the protesters said.
“These workers did not owe anyone money. They deserve their retirement pensions and severance pay. The government should ask the runaway employers for money, not the workers and their family members,” he said.
The alliance will protest on New Year’s Eve and paralyze the MRT system if the council fails to address their concerns, he added.