Taiwan govt to return loan payments to ex-factory workers: Jiang

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that the government has decided to return pre-2012 loan payments made by individuals in the high-profile "ex-factory worker case," adding that "the law cannot harm law-abiding citizens."

The Taipei High Administrative Court ruled on March 7 that the Ministry of Labor had lost its case to the ex-workers. The ministry subsequently announced that it would not file an appeal and that it will withdraw other related lawsuits.

During an interpellation session at the Legislature, Kuomintang lawmaker Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) asked the premier whether or not the government had failed to fulfil its responsibility of protecting laborers.

The premier pointed out that the Ministry of Labor has decided not to appeal the court's ruling and that it has withdrawn more than 200 related lawsuits.

The decision to return the money was made with the intent to treat fairly those who had made their loan payments in accordance with regulations and to bring closure to the controversy, the premier added.

Labor Minister Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) said that the government may supply the money from the Employment Security Fund (就業安定基金), but the fund's management team needs to discuss the issue before any money is allocated.

The minister explained that the payment records are intact, but there are still some technical issues that need to be resolved, such as compensation for ex-workers who are already deceased.

The minister added, however, that the government still views the money as a loan, but that the statute of limitations had already been passed.

If the government insists on getting payments, the move would constitute unjust enrichment, the minister added.

The people who made their loan payments in accordance with regulations should be treated fairly, Pan said.

The "ex-factory worker case" reaches back roughly two decades when more than 1,000 factory workers lost their jobs without severance or pensions. The government subsequently granted loans defined as "re-employment assistance" to these ex-workers, but in 2012, the Council of Labor Affairs, which is now the Ministry of Labor, filed lawsuits against those who had failed to make their payments, leading to several protests across the island.