Opponents to the government’s plans for pension reform yesterday protest on Ketalagan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, where the national affairs conference on pension reform was being held. The signs read “incompetent governance.”
Thousands of people yesterday rallied in Taipei against the government’s pension reform proposals, with protesters condemning the proposed changes as a breach of public trust and depriving pensioners of their rights.
To coincide with a national conference on pension reforms, protesters — mostly retired military personnel, civil servants and public-school teachers — rallied in front of the Presidential Office Building.
Throwing joss paper and performing a funeral rite, protesters called on President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) and Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) to step down for depriving public servants of their rights to a stable retirement.
The proposals announced last week are a breach of public trust, as employees begin their careers with legitimate expectations that the pension system will be protected, protesters said.
The government has manipulated the public and made pension reform a divisive issue between generations and occupations, with retirees and senior public employees bearing the brunt of the reform plans, protesters said.
“A few members of the alliance were invited to the national conference, making the meeting an endorsement of government policy rather than a fair discussion,” Alliance for Monitoring Pension Reform convener Huang Yao-nan (黃耀南) said.
While the Tsai administration has described itself as the government most capable of communication, it did not adopt suggestions proposed by members of the alliance over the course of 24 pension conferences, but instead discredited public employees, Huang said.
The alliance is continuing a hunger strike outside the Legislative Yuan because Tsai’s administration is not listening, he added.
“The government has pitted different age groups and people in different lines of work against each other. However, income inequality is not a generational or occupational issue, but an issue of unequal income distribution between employers and employees,” National Civil Servant Association president Harry Lee (李來希) said.
“If the government can break its promise on pension reform, can employers break their contracts with employees? A government that breaks its promises should step down,” Taiwan Labor Welfare Alliance convener Wang Yu-wen (王裕文) said.
Public employees and private sector workers are united, but the government has incited antagonism between the two and manipulated private-sector employees to support plans to cut the pensions of former public employees, while the government plans to take aim at private-sector workers in the later stages of reform, Wang said.
At a post-protest news conference, Lee criticized what he said was a lack of transparency surrounding the conference, saying that most of the conference participants were Democratic Progressive Party members or people affiliated with it.
Lee also criticized the downsizing of the meeting to one day.
“We refuse to endorse any results of the conference,” Lee said.
“This so-called deliberative democracy is a show,” alliance member and conference participant Huang Tai-sheng (黃台生) said.
The alliance proposed a three-tier pension system consisting of a national pension, insurance pension and occupational pension.
The alliance is to launch a referendum petition calling for a national pension that would give all citizens a monthly pension of NT$8,000, National Federation of Education Unions vice president Liu Ya-ping (劉亞平) said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), talking to reporters on the sidelines of the protest, said demonstrators took to the streets because they could no longer tolerate inappropriate policies and mistreatment.
The government has a reform plan, but instead of releasing it for public scrutiny, it plans to push it through the legislative review process despite the social unrest, Hung said.
KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), a former Taipei mayor, said public employees do not oppose pension reforms, but they have been stigmatized over the course of the reform effort.