MORE than 4,000 workers marched past Taiwan's Presidential Palace yesterday and urged candidates in the island's first direct presidential elections to improve workers' welfare and rights. The rally, called under the slogan of 'Spring Struggle 1995', was organised by the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions and more than 50 industrial unions and support groups. Adviser for the federation and the Workers' Legislative Action Committee, Jeng Tsuen-chyi, said that all candidates had been invited 'to come into contact with the difficulties faced by workers'. Taipei police cordoned off the street to the Presidential Palace. The march was peaceful, but demonstrators did throw hundreds of water balloons at effigies of Prime Minister Lien Chan and Health Department Director-General Chang Po-ya for their role in state-enterprise privatisation and the national health insurance plan. After assembling at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, the workers were entertained by dancers who displayed a slogan calling for labour unity in the polling booth. A short play poked light fun at all five candidates, but the most pointed jibe was directed at President Lee Teng-hui. He was depicted with a golf club in hand and his slogan 'Manage Greater Taiwan', was turned into 'manage golf, build a new course'. Three presidential hopefuls and one vice-presidential candidate accepted the invitation to speak, but Mr Lee did not take part. New Party legislator and presidential hopeful Wang Chien-hsuan told the workers that Mr Lee's failure to appear showed 'the Kuomintang doesn't respect your eight million votes'. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator and vice-presidential candidate Hsieh Chang-ting said that the DPP 'stands closest to workers than any other major party', citing the DPP's support for many labour movements. Former Control Yuan president Chen Li-an said improvements in labour rights were needed, so that 'those in power' could 'respect workers in their hearts'. Former Judicial Yuan president Lin Yang-kang noted that yesterday was the birthday of Dr Sun Yat-sen, adding that the founder of the Republic of China was deeply concerned for workers. The elections are due in March.