Labor ministry decides against appeal in ex-factory worker case
Central News Agency
2014-03-10 08:32 PM
Taipei, March 10 (CNA) The Ministry of Labor will not appeal a court ruling last Friday that went against the government in its bid to recoup loans paid to factory workers in the 1990s when their employers went bust, the ministry said Monday.

In a complaint brought by the ministry against the factory workers, the Taipei High Administrative Court ruled on March 7 that the loans were in effect compensation to the laid-off workers. It also found that the deadline for the government to pursue the matter -- January 2006 -- had passed long ago.

In announcing that it would not appeal the verdict in favor of the 12 former workers, the ministry also said that it will drop similar cases against other former factory workers and that those who have repaid the loans will have their money returned.

Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei said at a news conference that his agency decided to drop the case because of different views within the judicial system. According to Pan, courts in the past had mostly ruled in favor of the ministry in similar cases, but the Taipei High Administrative Court judges went in the opposite direction last Friday.

Based on the diversity of views held by different courts and judges, and the likelihood that they are unlikely to deliver a final and unified ruling in a short time, the ministry decided to "safeguard social harmony and respect the ruling," Pan said.

For those who have repaid the loans in line with the ministry's request, it will return the money in accordance with related laws and procedures, Pan pledged.

Vice Labor Minister Chen Yi-min elaborated that the ministry filed suit against the workers to help resolve the controversy surrounding the cases.

But seeing the additional time that would be needed to go through the appeals process or the additional year or two needed to get a constitutional interpretation from Taiwan's constitutional court, the ministry decided that it was not worth pursuing the case any further. "We've decided not to appeal in view of the social costs, and drop pending cases at the same time," Chen said.

The case dates back to the 1990s when more 1,000 factory workers were laid off by their respective employers without any form of severance or retirement pay.

Many of the workers were not even able to recover the contributions they made to the labor insurance fund because their factories had closed down or moved overseas, often without warning. The government arranged at the time for the workers to receive loans, defined as re-employment assistance, which were issued from a job security fund established by the government.

In an effort to recover the loans, the Council of Labor Affairs -- now the Ministry of Labor -- filed lawsuits in 2012 against the former workers who received the loans but never paid them back.

The move sparked anger among the laborers, their supporters and activists, who have staged highly visible protests over the past year. Since April 2013, 200 of the more than 500 workers targeted by the government agreed to pay back 10-30 percent of the loan amounts in a settlement initiated by the Council of Labor Affairs.

Cases involving some 200 former workers were still pending in the administrative court system prior to the Labor Ministry's announcement on Monday. (By Hsu Chi-wei, Jay Chen and Lilian Wu)

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