Saturday, June 25, 2016

Groups accuse Tsai of ‘stacking’ pension committee

Groups accuse Tsai of ‘stacking’ pension committee

PULLING STRINGS:President Tsai’s reform efforts are the manipulations of a capitalist government, national pension reform committee member Liu Ya-ping said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Veterans, civil servants and teachers’ organizations at a rally in Taipei yesterday break open a black box symbolizing the non-transparent manner in which they say the government has handled pension-related issues.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Veterans, civil servants and teachers’ organizations rallied outside the Presidential Office Building yesterday, accusing the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of “stacking the cards” when selecting members of the national pension reform committee.
Hundreds of protesters from the Pension Reform Watchdog Alliance — a consortium of more than 30 veterans, civil servants and teachers’ groups — marched from 228 Peace Memorial Park to the Taipei Guest House to send off four representatives to the committee’s first meeting, applauding and cheering as the representatives marched toward the Presidential Office Building.
Protesters shouted that they could support reform, but would oppose any “shoddy changes,” demanding that their rights and dignity be protected.
The committee has been billed by the government as a body to build consensus and draft reform plans for the nation’s diverse patchwork of pension schemes for members of different professions, most of which are likely to go bankrupt with the next few decades.
The fear that the relatively generous benefits enjoyed by former civil servants, military personnel and public school teachers will be targeted was palpable at the rally, which saw representative of teachers, civil servants, veterans and employees of state-owned enterprises breaking a “black box” signifying the opaque selection of committee representatives, pulling out “black hands” of “promise breaking” and retroactive benefit cuts.
Vice president of the National Federation of Education Unions and national pension reform committee representative Liu Ya-ping (劉亞平) said that Tsai’s reform efforts are the “manipulations of a capitalist government.”
“[Minister Without Portfolio] Lin Wan-i (林萬億) was allowed to select whoever he wanted for the committee, so most representatives are the government’s ‘hired thugs’ (打手),” he said, accusing Lin — who is responsible for pension reform efforts — with “rigging” the results of committee deliberations.
“If I get to choose committee members, the final conclusion it reaches will be my own,” he said, calling for a separate grassroots committee to be convened, with results of deliberation put to a referendum vote.
“Without tax and budget justice, there can no pension reforms,” he said. “Right now, the government and capitalists are unwilling to put up the necessary funds, forcing workers and others who are hired to fight over scraps.”
“We can support reforms, but not absolutely equal benefits for all, because each occupation is different,” said Wu Shih-huai (吳斯懷), a retired general and vice president of the National Army Schools Alumni Association. “What have we done wrong? We do not want to retire in our 40s, but we have to because the nation wants able-bodied soldiers.”
“We sacrifice our youth to the nation and suffer long absences from our families — our pensions are not ‘benefits’; they are our rights, just like salaries,” he said. “If you are going to cut pensions, you should also pay the overtime we are owed for being on duty 24-7 for 20 to 30 years.”
Taiwan Railways Administration Workers Union chairman Hsieh Sheng-ming (謝勝明) said that there should be a review of how pension funds are funds are managed rather than tax increases, adding that mismanagement of the funds had contributed to impending bankruptcy.

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