Premier defends Taipower bonuses decision

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Premier Sean Chen yesterday defended his decision in relation to year-end bonuses for four state-run businesses amid protests from some of their employees. Chen said that Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) employees are not happy with the reduced bonuses, but the general public is equally unhappy, because people think that the employees do not deserve the sums. The premier said he approved the bonus proposal forwarded by the Economics Ministry, having taken all factors into consideration. He downgraded the performance for Taipower employees from Grade A to Grade B, while upholding the Grade A for the other three state-run businesses — CPC Corporation, Taiwan Water Corporation and Taiwan Sugar Corporation — as proposed by the ministry. The bonuses are based on the grades. But he still expressed appreciation for Taipower workers’ efficiency and performance, citing their work during typhoons. The downgrading has irked the power company’s labor union, which has threatened to impose an outage on Taiwan and sue the premier. The union has also demanded that the economics minister, Shih Yen-shiang, step down. Chen dismissed the threat of outage as only an “emotional” expression by “one” Taipower employee, adding that he believes Taipower employees understand that it is their responsibility to serve the public, which in turn appreciates their work. Currently, employees of state-run businesses can get maximum year-end bonuses amounting to 4.6 months of their salaries, depending on their performance. Chen’s decision means that CPC, Taiwan Water and Taiwan Sugar employees may receive maximum bonuses, while their Taipower counterparts may not.

Chen has received criticism form the public for approving the bonuses, particularly those for Taipower and the oil company CPC, both of which have been losing huge sums of money. The government last year raised oil and electricity prices in order to save them from going bankrupt. But Taipower and CPC employees claim that the companies’ losses have been the result of burdens from implementing government policies, such as freezing gasoline prices while international oil prices soared. Observers said that the issues must be looked at objectively in order to find a solution. Yen Chia-yen, a researcher at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, said that each state-run business has to be looked at individually, and it is particularly so for Taipower, which is a monopoly. He said that there are many problems with Taipower’s management, but these problems won’t be solved in one go. He expressed the worry that if reform takes place too fast, it will affect Taiwan’s power supply and in turn Taiwan’s economy. Liang Chi-yuan, a researcher at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, said Taipower and CPC have incurred huge losses due to the implementation of government policies designed to stabilize prices. Liang noted that the government should not have frozen oil and electricity prices in the first place.