To solve a long-running controversy over loans the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) granted to laid-off workers as retirement payouts in 1997, CLA Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) has proposed raising donations from the public. However, a representative of the workers has rejected the idea.
In an interview aired by Formosa TV on Friday, Pan said the council has drafted a plan to provide partial assistance to workers repaying the loans, and the council might ask non-governmental organizations (NGO) to raise donations to help if the partial assistance is insufficient.
“I actually sympathize with the workers, and I would be happy to just forget about it if possible. However, our view is that the money given to the workers 16 years ago was given as loans, hence, as a government agency, we have to act according to the law and do what we’re supposed to do,” Pan said. “To show our intention to help, we’ve proposed a plan to partially subsidize the repayments, according to each individual worker’s economic conditions.”
“If some of the workers are still unable to repay the full amount after subsidies, we will ask NGOs to launch fundraising drives to collect donations to help cover the rest,” Pan added.
The proposals were immediately turned down by Taiwan International Workers’ Association, which has assisted the workers.
“The council’s proposals are unacceptable,” said Wu Yung-yi (吳永毅), a policy researcher for the group. “The council should accept its own responsibility, instead of dragging NGOs into the issue.”
The workers’ bottom line was that the council should negotiate directly with them, and cancel the debts since the government at the time promised to ask the absconding employers to repay the money given to the laid-off workers.
Pan said there is no evidence to support the workers’ claims.