Nan Shan Insurance workers on strike since 9 December for pension rights and against contract labour system
CWI Taiwan reporters
This report is translated from CWI Taiwan’s journal, The Socialist. The strike by Nan Shan Life Insurance workers is entering its fourth week and has spread from Taipei to the cities of Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. The Nan Shan workers’ union organises 5,500 of the company’s 30,000 workforce. Another bank union in Taiwan is now also discussing strike action, showing the radicalising effect of this struggle. CWI Taiwan has been actively assisting the strikers since the start of the strike. With petitions, leaflets and Socialist magazine, CWI members have organised joint stalls with strikers to reach out to other finance sector workers and appeal for solidarity action, specifically, refusing to sell Nan Shan products. We are calling on CWI members and unionists around the world to send messages of support for this struggle (details below).
On 29 November, Nan Shan Trade Union, organising employees at Nan Shan Life Insurance, approved the decision to launch a strike, which marks the first time throughout Taiwan’s labour movement history that the right to strike is practiced by workers in the insurance industry! In order to seize back the reward that all employees deserve, to resist the unilateral adjustments on the working conditions made by the company, as well as to stand against a series of salary cuts, the trade union launched its top mobilisation order, calling for members all over the country to vote for the strike action along with the demands.
After a week of nationwide voting, Nan Shan Trade Union passed the strike action with the support of 75 percent of its 5,500 members, and the strike began on 9 December. The strike began with the solidarity of the trade union. Many members of the trade union mentioned that during the vote, they were threatened by the bosses, who have also been making every possible effort to stigmatise the trade union and oppress the voting rights of the members. Nevertheless, members of the trade union remain united.
This strike has two demands according to the press release issued by the trade union: First, rejecting Nan Shan Life Insurance’s unilateral elevation on the performance appraisal criteria of district manager, the range of which elevation is three times as high. Second, it is written in Nan Shan’s Article of Incorporation that at least 1 percent of profit should be allocated to the employee bonus account, while the net profit of Nan Shan Insurance in 2014 is 21.2 billion Taiwan dollars (NTD) and the profit grows even further this year. Nan Shan Trade Union demands, for the internal staff, a general pay rise of 10,000 NTD and an additional month of annual bonus; for the external staff, a 20 percent rise of the commission rate of every product and a rise of annual bonus ceiling from 11 to 15 percent.
CWI in Taiwan completely supports the demands of Nan Shan Trade Union, and we will stand by the workers to demonstrate our solidarity. As stated by Qiu, the vice president of Nan Shan Trade Union, one of the major controversies is that the bosses unilaterally asserted the salesmen of Nan Shan Life Insurance belong to a contractor relation (i.e. outsourced or ‘self-employed’), rather than an employment relation, attempting to evade relevant labour laws and avoid the responsibility of pension allocation by doing so. After the administrative action between Nan Shan and the Bureau of Labour Insurance, the supreme court declared that the internal and external staffs of Nan Shan, regardless of their positions, belong to an employment relation. This court decision, however, has never been obeyed by Ruen Chen Group, the parent company of Nan Shan Insurance. The company instead turned to sue its 137 employees through civil actions in order to deny the employment relation. The company hired notorious lawyer Chen Chang-wen, to oppress the labour rights of its employees, putting various accused employees under huge mental pressure as a result. The unequal and one-sided distribution of resources in court cases put many salesmen in a vulnerable position.
Posted by 南山罷工 on Monday, 9 December 2015
Biased court decisions
After dozens of civil actions, Nan Shan openly claimed a victory to deny the employment relation. Although the trade union had also turned to the local officials of the Department of Labour for help, their bureaucratic and pro-capitalist attitude offered the trade union no real help.
It can be seen here that legal actions often act as the instrument adopted by capitalists to oppress workers, since the capitalists are wealthy and powerful enough to mobilise various resources in legal actions to combat the workers. The judicial system alone is not enough to fight for justice, and only by organising the workers for a mass struggle will it be possible to change this unjust situation!
CWI Taiwan agrees with the demands of the trade union, calling for the capitalists to acknowledge the employment relation (end outsourcing), not to evade the labour laws, and fully meet its responsibility of pension provision! In 2009, as a part of disposal of overseas assets due to the global financial crisis, the US multinational AIG sold Nan Shan Insurance through bidding, putting Nan Shan Insurance under the control of Ruen Chen. Ruen Chen Group promised to the Financial Supervisory Commission that the labour rights of all Nan Shan employees would be guaranteed, whereas in reality it has paid no attention to the demands of Nan Shan Trade Union since then. What’s worse is that, throughout the negotiation between the trade union’s representatives and the bosses, the bosses kept oppressing the trade union with methods such as legal action, and they even rewrote the labour contract unilaterally without the consent of the labour representatives. How hateful those capitalists are!
After the company was taken over by Ruen Chen Group, Nan Shan Trade Union has gone through 18 demonstrations and protests, but the capitalists still keep their arrogant attitude and continue to ignore its demands. Nan Shan Trade Union had obeyed the law to hold negotiation meetings with the bosses, in which meetings, however, most demands were rejected and the negotiation finally broke down. It was the bosses’ ignorance of the labour rights that forced the trade union to act as David against Goliath. Now, members of Nan Shan can no longer endure the time-wasting negotiations, they are therefore united to launch a strike!
CWI Taiwan support the demands of Nan Shan Trade Union’s strike, and we will stand by the brave strikers of Nan Shan Trade Union. The path to our victory can only be opened when the workers are united and realise the strength of solidarity! The profits of today’s Nan Shan Insurance were established by the workers of Nan Shan. As a conclusion, the vicious oppression and exploitation of Ruen Chen Group can only be fundamentally solved with workers’ democratic control of Nan Shan Insurance. Let us take the fruit of the workers back!
Send protests now!
Please send protest letters to Nan Shan Life Insurance board of directors and cc to Nan Shan Trade Union (addresses below). By copying and pasting the following model letter in Chinese this will help both workers and bosses to understand your communication:
[Translation: Protest letter to the board of Nan Shan Life Insurance Company
I/my organisation protests the exploitation of workers by Nan Shan Life Insurance by refusing to increase salary and commission and denying employment status in order to evade labour laws and pension entitlements. We further protest your use of law courts to attack the union and threats against workers preparing to go on strike.
The worldwide labour movement is watching this dispute and the conduct of your company, which is violating democratic norms and disregarding the labour laws. We support the just demands of striking Nan Shan employees and express our full solidarity with their struggle.]
Nan Shan Life Insurance company Board of Directors: [email protected]