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Ministry of Labor to cease appeals over loan payments

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Labor (MOL, 勞動部) yesterday announced its intent to cease all appeals and contention efforts following a court decision ruling in favor of the multitudes of laid-off workers rendered last Friday.

The MOL stated that in the interest of avoiding further social upheaval and distress to those who are involved in the dispute, it will uphold the court's ruling and cease all appeals and contention efforts henceforth. In addition, partial loans submitted would be returned to the laid-off workers, the MOL said.

The Taipei High Administration Court last Friday ruled in favor of laid-off workers, deeming that the government loans provided constitute compensation and did not need to be repaid following a protracted struggle that began 17 years ago.

During a wave of factory closures in the late 1990s government loans were provided as a stopgap measure to address the plight of numerous laid-off laborers, as many business proprietors had absconded without settling obligations in back pay, severance and pension obligations.

The MOL stated that in 1997 the government issued 1,105 loans averaging at about NT$400,000 each to relieve distressed workers who were laid off, with repayment expected within five years. In 2004, 684 loans remained outstanding, with the then-Council of Labor Affairs obtaining a court order to compel loan repayment from ten individuals who were found to have the highest monthly salaries among the previously laid-off factory workers under the assumption that the dispute were to be resolved under the domain of private law, the MOL said. With the statue of limitation on the case fast approaching, another wave of legal action was taken against the debtors, bringing the number of unsettled loans to 548, the MOL said.

Following the escalation of demonstrations and public outcry, the MOL ceased litigation efforts for an eight-month period beginning in 2012, and began seeking evidence supporting labor activists' claims that the dispute should be resolved in the domain of public law and that the funds supplied to the workers of closed factories were not loans but state reparations in lieu of compensation from absconded business proprietors. The MOL however, could not find compelling evidence supporting either claim and called upon the Taipei High Administration Court for a ruling.

The MOL stated that as the complexity of the case has grown considerably through the ruling and deliberation of numerous judges and courts over the past 17 years, it will conclude the long running case by upholding the latest decision rendered by the Taipei High Administration Court.

Currently, 772 out of 1,105 loans have been repaid, with 97 out of the remaining 333 being tried in civic courts and 209 tried in administrative courts, while 27 debtors have been ordered by the courts to repay loans.

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Minister of Labor Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) explains his office's intent to cease all efforts to appeal the judgment of a protracted dispute with a multitude of factory workers who lost their jobs, severance payments and pensions 17 years ago, following a court decision last Friday. (CNA)

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