Jobless protest outside advisory panel meeting

The China Post staff

Myriads of jobless protested outside a hotel in Taoyuan where the economic development panel of the presidential economic advisory group met to discuss ways to curb unemployment. The disgruntled protesters called for revisions of the labor laws and heavier punishment on folding companies that close without giving employees severance. More than 100 demonstrators were kept outside the hotel by police to prevent conflict, according to United Evening News. The angry jobless complained that the level of foreign laborers has been increasing despite the government’s repeated promise to cut imports of foreign workers. They also said the law protects employers who close their factories in an irresponsible manner — without paying out staff severance packages or retirement monies.

“The big bosses deserve heavier penalties for the irresponsible closures,” said Cheng Mao-shing, president of a voluntary labor group. Cheng said the government has never gotten serious in helping the workers. The protesters added that foreign workers should only be introduced on supplementary basis, or they should not be hired before the employers have found no adequate workers at home.

“The government is merely paying lip service,” said Cheng.

During a job fair held by Taoyuan County Government months ago, only one of the more than 50 participating companies was a traditional company – the Ministry of National Defense, he jokingly said. The rest was mostly insurance or direct marketing companies that were looking for sales representatives, said Cheng.

Inside the hotel, the meeting was attended by representatives of workers and employees. Huang Yi-yian, deputy chairman of the opposition Taiwan Independence Party, blamed employers for the island’s rising unemployment, which has surged to record highs amid global economic weakness.

Cheng also asked for stricter regulations governing companies’ borrowings.

Some of the companies capitalized with only NT$500 million can borrow up to NT$5 billion from banks, and use the loan for other non-core investments, such as stocks, said Cheng.

The president economic advisory group was an idea expounded by President Chen Shui-bian in an effort to rejuvenate the sagging economy that could plunge into a recession if the U.S. economy does not turn around soon.

The U.S. is the biggest destination of Taiwan’s exports, especially of electronic items. Taiwan’s economy grew only 1.06 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, representing the weakest showing in 26 years, and could post a contraction in the second quarter as some investment banks have predicted. The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics will release the second quarter’s gross domestic product (GDP) data at the end of this month.