Labor group appeals for government measures to help unemployed

By Maubo Chang, CNA, 24 April 2001

Taipei, April 24 (CNA) An umbrella organization of labor groups urged the government Tuesday to address the surging unemployment amid statistics showing 3.66 percent unemployment in the first quarter compared with economic growth of only 3 percent for the same period.

Members of the Alliance for 84 Hours for Every two Workweeks went to the Executive Yuan Tuesday morning to urge the government to stop the privatization of state-run enterprises and the mergers of financial institutions, which they blamed for contributing to the swelling jobless population.

The group called for the enactment of bills curbing employers’ power to lay off workers and subjecting violators to criminal punishment. They also called for the stabilization of public sector employment and for the government to fix employee quotas for each state-run company, which would have to be adhered to, irrespective of whether or not the company actually turns a profit.

Major public projects costing more than NT$200 million (US$6.25 million) should hire one-third of their workers from the jobless worker pool, said the group.

They also asked for expanding the scope of people eligible for unemployment payments, while payment of debts owed to jobless workers should take precedence over the payment of other debts. They also called for the rescheduling of loans taken out by jobless workers on the security of their houses, and the offer of interest-free loans to jobless workers to help them pay for their children’s tuition.

The group urged the Executive Yuan to send back to the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) bills on trade unions, handling of labor disputes and group work contracts, saying that the council should consult with labor groups further to avoid any detriment to the interests of workers.

The alliance asked for the Executive Yuan’s response to their requests by May 1—Labor Day—when it will organize a labor rally and parade in Taipei to press for their requests.

The surging employment rate also drew fire from opposition lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan.

Opposition People First Party Legislator Chin Huei-chu criticized President Chen Shui-bian’s plan to travel overseas on his first anniversary in office as a plot to deflect public attention from his poor performance at home.

She blamed Chen for offering generous aid to Taiwan’s allies on his overseas journey despite the sagging domestic economy.

Speaking tongue in cheek, she begged the government to offer a mite of food to its people.

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lin Kuo-lung cited party Chairman Lien Chan as saying that situation could hardly be worse if the government officials simply slept all day long and did nothing.

Independent Legislator Chen Chin-ting blamed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party for what he described as reneging on its campaign promise to reduce the number of foreign laborers by 15,000 per year. Instead, Chen said, the number of foreign workers in Taiwan increased by 30,000 in the past year.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, a group of technicians and janitors working for government agencies complained to legislators Tuesday that their pensions were reduced under the Labor Standards Law.

They claimed that the pension offered by the government before the implementation of the Labor Standards Law in 1998 is more generous than what is required under the new law.

As a result, they further claimed, the longer they serve in their jobs, the less pension they can claim.

However, a CLA official assured them that the Labor Standards Law provides for only the minimum pension for laborers and will not require employers who offer better pensions to their workers to drop their extra payments.