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Taiwan labour groups march to 'fight for justice'
Publication Date : 29-10-2012
More than 3,000 members from over 20 labour groups around Taiwan demonstrated in Taipei yesterday to protest recent government economic policy which the protesters say sacrifices the people's interests in favour of big businesses.
The march started at the intersection of Chongqing North Road and Beiping West Road. Those leading the procession kneeled down every few steps for a 200-metre distance to symbolise the plight of labourers as well as “to demand justice, to fight for fairness, and to protect their livelihoods.” The rally then gathered at Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, where some protesters engaged in scuffles with police officers while hurling eggs at the office.
The Taipei City Police Department said many officers at the scene were attacked with the eggs and some smoke bombs. The police said that by around 4 p.m. they were able to expel those who threw the eggs and smoke bombs, but did no arrests were made.
In response to the march, Minister Pan Shih-wei of the Council of labour Affairs said labourers have the right to express their opinions.
Leaders of the labour groups said people are disappointed with the government's recent economic and labour measures for dealing with the country's economic slump, describing the steps as “exploiting labourers in favour of business conglomerates.” They said the only beneficiaries from the measures were conglomerates and those who continue clinging on to their economic and financial interests.
They called the government “a boor ruining Taiwan's people” as commodity prices and living costs continue rising while labourers' wages have been frozen for a long period of time. They accused the government of sacrificing people's interests in the name of stimulating the economy while ignoring the injustice in Taiwanese society.
The protesters listed four demands. First, the government must raise the minimum monthly wage amid rising inflation.
Second, the government must include pension payments and severance pay in the regulations governing the management, repayment, collection and allocation of the arrears wage debts.
Third, they demanded the government amend the rules on pensions to be paid out from the labour Insurance Fund.
Finally, they demanded the government scrap a plan which would see an easing of restrictions on hiring foreign workers by employers as well as companies' use of dispatched temporary workers instead of permanent staffers.
The labour leaders said they will continue monitoring the government's policies with plans to organise a new demonstration on Sunday, November 25 if their proposals and demands are not heeded.
They also blasted lawmakers for drawing NT$1.72 million (US$58,700) in government allowances per person each year, including NT$320,000 for overseas trips in spite of dismal productivity when working on major bills and other legislative programmes.
Many workers in Taiwan earn an annual salary of around NT$300,000.
The labour leaders said the Cabinet's strategies to achieve “marked” economic growth have not only not been felt by the public but have also led to the collapse of labour protection mechanisms covering labour insurance and pension funds.
Pan said current plans to amend pension payments under the labour Insurance Fund are still under discussion and his council will do its best to safeguard the rights of local workers.
*US$1=29.2 Taiwan dollars