KMT disruption on pension bills likely

Pension reform proposals are in the final stage of legislative review, but the process is expected to be lengthy if the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) stalls proceedings with lengthy speeches as the legislature’s extraordinary session continues this week.

A cross-caucus understanding has been reached that KMT lawmakers would be given full opportunity to put forward their opinions during reviews, KMT caucus convener Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) said on Saturday.

However, KMT lawmakers have often made bogus or irrelevant comments during review proceedings, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said, adding that he would negotiate with KMT lawmakers to preempt lengthy and unnecessary speeches since the remaining clauses to be reviewed are mostly over technical issues that are not seen as controversial.

The draft act on civil servant pensions has 92 clauses, while a bill on public-school teacher retirement benefits has 96, and another on political appointees has 37.

However, the legislature on Thursday and Friday last week only managed to review 43 clauses of the civil servant pension bill.

The passage of all the remaining provisions would not be completed without a full week of lengthy reviewing if the KMT insists on initiating clause-by-clause debates.

Under the terms of the bills, the pension system for teachers would be identical to that of civil servants except for a difference in the stipulated retirement age.

In 2010, during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) tenure, a draft act was submitted to amend the Statute Governing the Retirement of School Faculty and Staff (學校教職員退休條例) and raise the retirement eligibility from the “75 system” — which allows teachers to retire when their age plus years of service equal 75 — to an “85 system.”

However, it did not pass and the 75 system is still in effect.

The average retirement age of public-school teachers is 53.67, lower than the 55.89 for civil servants and 61.1 for private-sector workers.

According to the bill — formulated following the recommendations of the Presidential Office’s pension reform committee, the 75 system would be gradually changed to the 85 system by 2027, with an annual increment of one year in retirement eligibility to extend the retirement age of public-school teachers to 60.

For university professors, the retirement age would be extended to 65 by 2033.

The KMT caucus has proposed keeping the retirement age of elementary-school teachers at 55.

However, since 2011, the average age of teachers beginning service is 29, and their retirement age would be about 60 after working for 30 years, Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said.

Another point of contention is the “retirement reward” of minister-level officials, as political appointees assuming office prior to 2003 and having served for more than two years can combine their years of service in government with their years as civil servants to qualify for a monthly pension, but for officials assuming office after 2003, only a lump-sum payment is given.

The maximum basic pay of a civil servant is NT$53,075 per month, while the basic pay of ministers is NT$95,250 per month.

However, ministers who held office prior to 2003 can receive a pension based on the basic pay of ministers even though they worked as lower-level civil servants for the majority of their careers, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said, criticizing the system as unfair.

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