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June 27, 2017

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Protesters decry government spending of millions for and against Lien-fu workers

Angry former Lien-fu Textiles Co. (聯福紡織) workers gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday in protest of the government's spending of NT$20 million on lawsuits against them. The government filed lawsuits against some 2,000 workers after they failed to repay loans granted to them 15 years ago.

Retired workers from the Lien-fu Textiles Co. (聯福紡織) and Fu-Chang Co. (福昌工廠) were laid off without notice after the companies filed for bankruptcy. They were stripped of their severance pay, retirement and salaries. The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) devised a plan to subsidize their financial needs in the form of loans. Now, after 15 years, the former workers — most in their 60s or older — are receiving notice from the council that they must pay their dues.

At a Legislative Yuan interpellation session yesterday, CLA Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) was accused of being contradictory in the budget report as the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training budgeted NT$20.56 million to file lawsuits against workers while the Department of Labor Relations budgeted NT$48 million to supplement the workers' lawsuit costs.

Lawmaker Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) criticized it as "using the left hand to sue laborers while using the right hand to support workers ... It's very contradictory." Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) also questioned why the government won't try to arrest the employers but instead went for their former workers. "Don't you think that's weird?" she asked.

Pan responded to both questions by saying the lawsuits were suspended a few months ago, but the budget spending was in-line with regulations. "I tried to negotiate with the unions and associations the first week I took the post. We do not wish to file lawsuits against the workers, but hope that a consensus can be reached between the employers and laborers," he said. Pan later added, "It is legitimate to budget the spending, but we might not need to actually spend it."

Former workers circled in front of the Legislative Yuan with a coffin to protest the government's actions. According to the laborers, the government had supported their finances in the place of the employers; hence, it was the employers that owed the council and not them. "The government should be asking the employers to repay the dues and not file lawsuits against workers," they said.

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