Wearing their signature yellow jackets with the word “anger” written across their chests, former Hualon Corp workers demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Labor in Taipei yesterday, threatening further protest action if they do not meet with Minister of Labor Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文) within two days.
The former workers said they will protest at the Taipei Railway Station if Chen fails to hold a meeting with them by tomorrow, hinting that they may paralyze station operations by occupying the train tracks, a tactic used by other protesting labor rights groups last year.
“Chen Hsiung-wen has time to stump for candidates at campaign rallies, yet he is unable to meet the workers in person,” said Hualon Self-help Organization secretary Hsu Jen-yuan (徐任遠), a student at National Taiwan University.
The protesters retired from the bankrupted textiles manufacturer about a decade ago and say that they are each owed NT$1 million (US$32,500) in unpaid pensions.
At yesterday’s rally, representatives from the organization restated their rejection of the ministry’s proposal last month to partially compensate the reiterated workers through donations from banks.
“Since the ministry seems confident that next year’s auction of Hualon’s Toufen (頭份) plant [in Miaoli County] would provide sufficient funds to pay the outstanding pensions, it should provide the retired workers with full compensation first and take their place as a creditor of the company,” Hsu said.
Halfway through the rally, laid-off freeway toll collectors arrived at the ministry building by bus, fresh from holding a protest of their own at the National Police Agency to join the ex-Hualon employees’ demonstration and express solidarity with their cause.
At one point, the former Hualon staffers set fire to a makeshift tower made from cardboard boxes that had “Money for our coffins” written on it, to symbolize what they see as the ministry’s complete disregard for their pensions.
Elsewhere in the city, Chen told reporters that although he is willing to hold a meeting with the workers, he refused to engage in any negotiations that were initiated “under a threatening tone.”
“How can this be a civilized way to act?” he said at the Legislative Yuan, where he was attending a meeting.
The former workers should conduct negotiations with the “proper etiquette,” Chen added.
He seemed unable to escape the issue, as Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋菫) then lambasted him over the matter during a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, demanding in a proposal that the ministry hold a meeting on the Hualon case within two weeks.
Committee members voted in favor of Tien’s proposal, which stipulates the attendance of both Chen and representatives from the Hualon Self-Help Organization