Facing boycott, company owner in workplace bullying scandal apologizes

Taipei,  The chairman of a leading educational publisher apologized on Tuesday for the workplace bullying of a whistleblowing employee, just one day before Taiwan’s National Federation of Teachers Unions (NFTU) was set to launch a boycott of the company.

In a written statement, Kang Hsuan Educational Publishing Group Chairman Lee Wan-chi (李萬吉) apologized for “setting a bad example to the public” through home quarantine violations last month which preceded the incident.

He also apologized for “unsound company management” that led to “psychological trauma” and the resignation of an employee suspected of having reported his quarantine violations.

“I have reflected deeply on the criticism and comments received from various sectors of society. I believe the company made multiple errors in its handling of this issue, and am willing to humbly accept the blame for that,” he said.

Following Lee’s apology, the NFTU issued a statement canceling a press conference it had scheduled for Wednesday to announce a boycott of Kang Hsuan, and urged the government to pass legislation to better protect corporate whistleblowers.

The issue dates back to Sept. 11, when the New Taipei Department of Health fined Lee NT$1 million (US$34,862) for violating his home quarantine six times, including by visiting his company, after returning to Taiwan from China on Sept. 5.

Following the incident, paper notes began appearing around Kang Hsuan’s Xindian District headquarters accusing a female employee suspected of having leaked the information of “betraying” the company, ultimately leading to her resignation at the end of September.

After her treatment became public, the NFTU issued a statement on Oct. 9 calling for the company to apologize, followed by another on Oct. 11 threatening to launch a national boycott on Wednesday if it failed to do so.

At a mediation session organized by New Taipei’s Labor Affairs Bureau on Monday, the company agreed to post a public apology to the woman on its website for seven days, issue an involuntary resignation certificate so that she can claim unemployment, and provide her with an undisclosed amount as severance pay.

However, when the company’s apology was released, the NFTU slammed it as “insincere” and said the planned boycott would go forward unless Lee personally took responsibility for the incident.

Although Lee’s apology on Tuesday appears likely to bring the matter to a close, the incident could given momentum to the passage of whistleblower protections along the lines of those promoted by the NFTU.

Earlier on Tuesday, New Taipei Legal Affairs Department Director Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲) said that as the Legislature has yet to take action on a draft Whistleblower Protection Act, the city will examine whether aspects of the proposal can be passed under municipal self-government ordinance.

Kang Hsuan, which was founded by Lee in 1988, publishes 42 percent of the textbooks used in Taiwan’s elementary and junior high schools, according to the NFTU.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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