Chunghwa union defends protest

By Joy Su, Taipei Times, Thursday 18 September 2003, Page 2

Chunghwa Telecom Workers’ Union chairman Chang Hsu-chung (張緒中) yesterday defended the right of workers to take a collective leave of absence for a planned mass assembly outside the Legislative Yuan next Tuesday.

Chang said that Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) chairman Hochen Tan’s (賀陳旦) assertion that no more than 10 percent of the company’s employees could take leave from work on the same day went against workers’ rights.

Union members are planning on taking a personal leave of absence to attend next Tuesday’s rally. Not only will NT$2,000 be deducted from their salary for missing work, the workers will also have to pay for the bus fare to Taipei, Chang said.

The right to take personal leave of absence is fundamental. If Chunghwa Telecom takes away this right, I will have to resort to extraordinary measures. Of course, these measures will not infringe on consumers’ rights, he said.

Chang added that he would be meeting with Chunghwa management representatives today in to discuss the matter.

The union’s grievances stem from the company’s privatization policies. The union opposes the company’s decision to sell a portion of its shares to private companies such as Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控), Cathay Life Insurance Co (國泰人壽) and Taiwan Cellular Corp (台灣大哥大), Chunghwa’s primary competitor.

In addition, the union is also concerned about the company’s plans to buy back a portion of its shares from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to increase the earnings of Chunghwa shareholders.

I keep asking myself, ‘Who benefits from these privatization moves?’ Chang said. I don’t see how the workers get anything from this. The financial syndicates and the government reap the benefits.

Chunghwa is a state enterprise, and therefore Chunghwa’s resources actually belong to the citizens, Chang said.

He explained that Chunghwa’s problems could not be resolved by he and Tan alone.

Chunghwa’s privatization policy is public policy, Chang said. Therefore, the union and I seek the help of the legislature and Executive Yuan on this public matter.

The Chunghwa Telecom Workers’ Union plans to bring its petition to the Legislative Yuan on Sept. 23 when Premier Yu Shyi-kun makes his national policy report.

If all goes well, the event should end by noon and workers can return to work. Otherwise, the event will continue until 10pm, Chang said.

Chang said next Tuesday’s assembly was legal and presented documentation to prove that the union had applied for a permit from the police.

In addition, Chang said that the unions’ actions had no political motive or backing. He said that although the union was disappointed with the ruling party’s policies, a labor movement needed to separate itself from politics.