CONSENSUS FAILURE:Outside the venue, protesters attempted to rush a police barricade, with between 20 and 30 occupying a courtyard by the front entrance
By Jake Chung / Staff writer, with CNA
Representatives of military personnel, civil servants and public-school teachers yesterday clash with police outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei, where a public hearing on pension reform was being held.
The first public forum on pension reform failed to reach any clear conclusions yesterday, with proceedings often becoming chaotic as noisy, while violent protests further disrupted proceedings.
The forum, chaired by Minster of Labor Kuo Fang-yu (郭芳煜), began at 2pm, while the Oversight for Pension Reforms Alliance staged a protest outside the venue, the GIS MOTC Convention Center in Taipei.
The atmosphere at the forum was tense. Attendees insisted that a matter of procedure be addressed first, as the forum was not chaired by National Pension Reform Commission Deputy Convener Lin Wan-i (林萬億), who had chaired previous forums on the issue.
Participants were vociferous and often punctuated their criticisms with loud banging on tables.
The noisy complaints continued during Kuo’s opening remarks.
Chinese National Federation of Industries standing director Sam Ho (何語) told the forum that the structure of small and medium-sized enterprises — comprising 96.8 percent of the total number of the nation’s businesses — could not shoulder a proposed NT$1.2 trillion (US$37.18 billion) increase in insurance fees.
The reforms aim to cap labor insurance rates at 18.5 percent, with an annual raise of 0.5 percent per year — representing NT$9.6 billion in additional costs — to achieve that target, Ho said, adding that the policy would severely restrict economic development.
The same pension plan must be used for military personnel, civil servants, educators, police, firefighters and ordinary workers in the same legislation, Military, Civil Servants and Educators Alliance Party Secretary-General Ta Chi-yu (達佶祐) said.
The reforms should abolish the Act Governing Recompense for the Discharge of Special Political Appointees (政務官退職金給與條例), Ta said, adding that the pensions of the president, vice president and other high-ranking government officials and legislators must be reformed before those for civil servants and ordinary workers.
The government must shoulder the ultimate responsibility of paying social security premiums, the party said, adding that the government must choose whether age or years of service are the benchmark for pension levels.
Outside the venue, protesters attempted to rush a police barricade and enter the building, with between 20 and 30 people managing to enter a courtyard outside the front door.
However, police formed a barricade using riot shields and prevented protesters from entering the building.
Kuo announced the end of the forum at 4:17pm after learning of the protests outside, saying that all the participants who had not yet submitted their statements would be able to do so in written form.
After pelting the venue with eggs during the proceedings, Oversight for the Pension Reforms Action Alliance protesters went on to throw eggs and joss paper at the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) headquarters.
DPP spokesperson Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) condemned the actions, saying that while the party respects people’s right to express their opinions, national policy should be discussed rationally instead of interrupted by emotional and violent outbursts.
The goal of pension reforms is for Taiwanese to enjoy a good quality of life in their retirement and for the government to allocate limited resources fairly to each retiree, Wang said.
“We hope the reforms can be successfully carried out after extensive discussions have taken place and with the full consensus of the public,” Wang said.
Yesterday’s forum, hosted by the commission, was the first of a series that are scheduled to also take place in central, southern and eastern regions later this month. The forums are intended to encourage public debate about the pension reform proposals.
A national affairs conference is scheduled to be held on Jan. 21 and Jan. 22 so that bills to revise related laws, including the Civil Service Retirement Act (公務人員退休法), can be drafted and delivered to the legislature for review in its next session, which is scheduled to start next month.