Union protest may block Chunghwa sale

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:00am

The final phase of Chunghwa Telecom's drawn-out privatisation process could be in jeopardy after a union protest in Taipei yesterday.

About 600 employees belonging to the Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union picketed the company's headquarters demanding the government stick to a requirement to consult with the union before it completes its privatisation plan. Four union members were arrested.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications began selling off Chunghwa Telecom in 2000. So far, it has reduced its stake to 64.9 per cent and is in the process of disposing of a further 15 per cent.

However, the sell-off has faced repeated delays due to the government continually holding out for a better price.

The stock peaked at a high of NT$100.50 ($24.98) in October 2000 before falling below NT$40 in July 2001. The stock closed at NT$60.70 yesterday.

While the protest was relatively small, it came on the deadline for banks to put forward proposals to manage a government American depositary receipt placement that will sell 15 per cent of the company to overseas investors for more than US$2.8 billion.

If the placement is delayed, it could be months or even years before the final tranche is sold off.

A further 2 per cent is to be sold domestically.

'They should obey the legislature's resolution for consultation and agreement before privatisation,' said union president Simon Chang.

Taiwan's legislature passed a resolution last year calling on the government to come to an agreement with workers before privatisation can be completed.

Mr Chang said his union was waiting for a collective bargaining agreement protecting pension packages after privatisation.

The opposition has criticised the sale, saying the process is not being conducted in the public interest.

'The privatisation process should be thoroughly reviewed and put in check,' said Joanna Lei, a Kuomintang legislator.