Labor council promises to settle lawsuits against laid-off factory workers
CNATAIPEI--Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei said that the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) will soon try to propose solutions to a case that has the council pitted against local workers.
December 31, 2012, 12:12 am TWN
The council sued the workers to recover money they borrowed from the government to tide them over after they were laid off in a series of factory bankruptcies in Taiwan in 1996 without collecting severance pay.
Many of the workers have never paid the money back and have argued that they thought the money they received from the government was a direct subsidy rather than a loan.
Pan said the CLA has formed an ad hoc team, led by Deputy Labor Minister Hao Feng ming, to search for the best solution by the Lunar New Year that will not harm the country's rights as a creditor but that also considers the debtors' ability to pay back the loans.
The CLA said in late August that it would temporarily suspend all legal proceedings against the workers over the issue, but the council still budgeted NT$20 million (US$689,180) in 2013 for litigation costs.
The council's move to budget money for legal proceedings against laid-off workers prompted a series of protests organized by the workers and activists over the past few months.
The alliance formed by the workers said it received a notice from the CLA in June this year asking them to pay back the money, along with interest and a late payment fee.
One of the workers, Lu Huang-chan, a 67-year-old woman who makes roughly NT$3,000 a month by selling recyclables she collects off the street, was asked to reimburse the government NT$500,000 for the NT$360,000 she received 16 years ago, according to a Taiwan Public Television Service report dated Dec. 28.
Also on Saturday, the workers staged a rally outside a seminar on labor policy organized by the council and attended by President Ma Ying-jeou. The alliance demanded that the government strike the funds allocated for legal proceedings from the council's budget.
“The government uses seemingly civilized means to deal with disadvantaged people. The pivotal issue in this case is that it is against social justice,” a representative of the alliance said.
The workers will stage a rally outside Taipei's Ximen MRT Station Sunday and will kneel down every six steps to protest the government's move.
They also vowed to paralyze the city's MRT system on New Year's Eve to make their statement, and on Saturday they held up banners at several MRT stations to apologize to commuters for the inconvenience they expect to create.
In response, Wang Yu-wen, the head of the labor union of Taipei Rapid Transit Corp., which runs the MRT system, urged the CLA to handle the incident properly but said a protest that paralyzes the transportation system could blur the focus of the activists' appeal and cost them public support.