Taipei, Aug. 10 (CNA) Over 200 people gathered in Taipei Main Station Friday in a continuing protest against a move by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to dun for payment of defaulted government loans extended to victims of a series of fraudulent bankruptcies 16 years ago.
On the station's platform four, the members of a national front of workers of bankrupt companies demanded a meeting with Labor Minister Wang Ju-hsuan, threatening that if the meeting was not forthcoming, they would paralyze Taipei's mass transport system.
The organization is comprised of several self-help associations of workers of companies that were shut down in 1996 after their owners went bankrupt. The workers not only lost their jobs but also unpaid wages, pensions and severance pay, according to the front.
In 1996, more than 300 workers of a textile company that closed during the wave of fraudulent bankruptcies staged a protest by lying down on railway tracks to show their desperation and call for help from the government.
A year afterward, the workers were deemed to be entitled to a government "employment-promotion loan" designed to help them over their financial woes while seeking new jobs.
Since June this year, however, the CLA has been sending letters to the debtors, asking them to repay the loans, prompting the protests that have continued since that time.
The front claimed in a statement released Aug. 7 that many of the workers were already middle-aged in 1996 and that most of them were unable to find steady work thereafter on account of their age.
"Now the government wants them to pay back the money with interest. How can 70- and 80-year-old workers shoulder such a heavy burden?" the front argued.
Before making their way to the Taipei Main Station, the protesters had earlier rallied in front of the CLA headquarters to demand a meeting with Wang for talks on the CLA's dunning action. However, Wang did not come out to see them.
According to CLA statistics, as of July 31 there were 586 households in debt to the CLA, with defaulted loan capital totaling NT$200 million and combined interest of NT$80 million.
(By Chen Chih-chung and Elizabeth Hsu)