The National Federation of Education Unions announced the dissolution of an alliance opposed to pension reform yesterday, drawing criticism from other groups as fissures within the movement continue to deepen.
“Our open conflict started on Valentine’s Day [Feb. 14], and now that it is Lovers’ Day, we are officially breaking up. We will no longer have anything to do with what National Civil Servant Association president Harry Lee (李來希) does or says,” National Federation of Education Unions (NFEU) vice president Liu Ya-ping (劉亞平) said, as federation leaders announced the dissolution of the Alliance for Monitoring Pension Reform, which was nominally headed by NFEU director-general Huang Yao-nan (黃耀南).
The group, which was a loose alliance of more than 60 different organizations representing teachers, civil servants and retired veterans affected by pension reform, had been plagued by fierce infighting between the NFEU and the civil servants’ group led by Lee.
The alliance already existed “in name only,” with no formal meetings having been held since April because of a boycott from “certain groups,” Huang said, adding that he was disbanding in his personal capacity as convener, following a NFEU board resolution last week.
Lee previously announced a boycott of alliance meetings after a fundraising dispute, which saw leaders of teachers’ unions stripped of their moderator positions on a social media account.
“I feel like a deaf-mute person eating an acrid medicinal root; there is a lot of bitterness I cannot say anything about,” said Huang, citing a requirement that he receive permission from civil servant moderators before making even “urgent mobilization” posts on social media.
His mobilization call during the final stages of legislative review for pension reform was criticized by Lee and drew only a tepid response.
The NFEU announcement is meant to clarify responsibility for actions and protests since controversy erupted over who was responsible for the disruption of the Taipei Summer Universiade opening ceremony by pension reform protesters on Aug. 19, Liu said.
“We are afraid that Lee will make statements during the closing ceremony which we will be held responsible for, so we want to clearly cut ourselves loose,” he said.
The NFEU has denied it sponsored or participated in the opening ceremony protests.
Huang and other union officials were observed marching in the opening ceremony protests, but did not wear any union insignia, after reportedly failing to win an official union endorsement for their participation.
The alliance raised more than NT$6 million (US$198,926), and NT$1.51 million remains in an account controlled by the NFEU, Huang said.
Huang promised that the NFEU would not “squander” the funds and would “respect all related legal procedures for their disposal.”
“From the beginning the alliance was not a formally registered legal entity,” he added.
The NFEU’s control of donations was the key reason for the split between the teachers and civil servant groups, after Lee sought to solicit direct donations for a promised legal battle against reforms after they come into effect.
However, the funds are to be frozen in a court-controlled bank account and dispersed only to groups which bring a valid legal claim, Liu said.
“It is extremely regrettable that the dissolution of an alliance of more than 60 groups was announced without any formal meeting. We have fought so hard, and the fight is not finished. There has been no official disposal of alliance funds. How will they face our donors?” said Taiwan Veteran Rights Protection Association president Huang Cheng-chung (黃正忠) , who was the initiator of the protest at the Universiade opening ceremony.
The Taiwan Veteran Rights Protection Association has not ruled out future cooperation with Lee’s plans to organize a political party, Huang Cheng-chung said.
“While reforms to teachers’ pensions has been finalized, cuts to military veterans have yet to be passed. Does that mean that the teachers do not intend to fight for their comrades in arms?” said Harry Lee, who previously served as deputy convener of the alliance before announcing meeting boycotts.
The union’s announcement is “weird,” he said.
“Teachers are a minority in the alliance that encompassed civil servants, military veterans and some labor and civic groups. What right do they have to declare that the entire alliance is dissolved? If the convener feels he cannot continue to perform his duties, he could resign and allow us to elect a new leader,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Taiwan Civil Service Innovation Coalition yesterday urged more focus on substantive civil service reforms.
“For young low-level civil servants, pensions look distant and unreachable. What they care more about is the ever-increasing amount of red tape, as well as a culture of bureaucracy that discounts and excludes young people,” coalition president Tsai Ming-han (蔡明翰) said, adding that “some groups have been taking center-stage” and it should not be assumed that they represent young civil servants.
The coalition is to hold a demonstration during the Universaide closing ceremony to show support for the work and sacrifices of current civil servants, regardless of whether pension reform opponents protest outside the venue, he said, while evading questions on the coalition’s stance on pension reform.
The coalition’s media conference was disrupted when a middle-aged Taiwan Policemen’s Work Rights Promotion Association member named Sun Yi-pin (孫宜斌) yelled his opposition to the government’s reforms.
“I’ll respond to this issue because these young people absolutely don’t understand what’s going on,” he said, speaking for several minutes despite repeated requests from fellow association members that he sit down.
Association members said the man was a member, but he did not represent the association’s position.
Coalition board member Lin Yu-kai (林于凱) said Sun’s remarks reflected the broader problem of older civil servants discounting the opinions of the young.
A former Environmental Protection Administration official, he resigned from his government post in June after being put under internal investigation for speaking out in favor of pension reform.
Lin yesterday said he had resigned voluntarily to take a New Power Party position because of the greater freedom to push for reform.
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