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Workers stage Labor Day protests against pension plan

2013/05/01 20:16:32

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) Thousands of people from more than 30 labor unions and workers' groups took to the streets of Taipei Wednesday in Labor Day protests, calling on the government to protect their rights.

The workers, mobilized by more than 30 groups from across the country, including the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions, joined two different marches against the government's pension reform plan.

After the marches, some of the protesters held a rally in front of the Legislative Yuan.

The protesters called on the government to retain the current labor insurance annuity payment, systematically raise the minimum wage, establish a system of collective bargaining, allocate a budget to supplement the Labor Insurance Fund if it fails to provide the basic guaranteed payments, and amend Article 28 of the Labor Standards Act to include doctors.

They also urged legislators across party lines to reject the Cabinet's pension reform plan -- which proposes a higher premium rate and a lower income replacement rate -- so that workers can have basic retirement guarantees.

Doctors and medical students, who were participating in a workshop on the labor rights of doctors, also joined the rally.

They said low-level medical personnel in Taiwan usually work shifts of 20-30 hours, which affects their health and the quality of medical care they provide.

The medical workers called for more reasonable work hours and for physicians to be included in the Labor Standards Act.

Meanwhile, protesters in a march organized by eight major labor associations expressed opposition to what they called the government's improper pension reforms.

Workers from the unions gathered in front of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei then marched to Ketagalan Avenue, the main street leading to the Presidential Office.

The organizers said the real wage has been lowered to the level it was at 18 years ago, while the pension reform plan is set to deduct even more of workers' earnings.

The protesters will deliver a petition to the Presidential Office to express their desire to keep the current pension plan intact, the organizers said.

The reform plan will not only increase the labor insurance premium rate, but also other fees by 20 percent, they said.

In addition, the reform plan proposes lowering the pension payout rate and shrinking pensions, therefore, the labor groups are strongly opposed to the reform and want the government to keep the current pension plan, the organizers added.

In response, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) said workers will not suffer losses as a result of the pension reform plan.

The CLA said it will maintain its position of paying higher pensions than the premiums received and allowing sustainability of the pension system.

The council said it will do all it can to reduce the negative impact of the reforms on workers' rights.

(By Hsu Chih-wei, Zoe Wei and Y.L. Kao)
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