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Talk of the Day -- First occupational accident payment over suicide

Talk of the Day -- First occupational accident payment over suicide

Pressure in the work place has increased sharply due to the declining economy.
According to the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), it handled 48 cases applying to be identified and recognized as occupational diseases in the first nine months of this year, up 100 percent from the same period of last year. Among them was the first case of a suicide being ruled as an occupational disease. The CLA ruled that Chang Pei-fong of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) suffered from work pressure and developed a mental illness while executing his work duties. He subsequently jumped to his death. The council ruled that Chang's employer should take full responsibility, and his family is entitled to a compensation payment equivalent to 45 months of his insured salary. The following are excepts from local media coverage on Chang's death: United Daily News: The CLA said that Chang, 30, was in charge of industrial safety at FPG's Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant in Mailiao Township, Yunlin County. On Oct. 13, 2011, Chang jumped to his death at the plant complex just one week before his scheduled wedding. Chang had worked for FPG for more than four years. He was under great pressure after a spate of industrial safety accidents were reported in the complex. His way of management had not been supported by his superiors. Before his death, he sent a text massage saying that he "couldn't live up to the government, the company or engineering requirements, and that he felt terribly sorry for the company and wanted to take responsibility by killing himself." The CLA said that people who suffer from work pressure often show symptons of depression or bipolar disorders, but Chang had no history of depression. The council therefore consulted Japanese occupational disease experts and decided that Chang, due to overwork and persistent work pressure, was in a severely erratic state of mind and could not make rational judgments, so his case should be ruled as occupational disease.
Tsao Ming, president of Formosa Petrochemical Corp. (FPC), a subsidiary of FPG, said that after receiving notification of CLA's decision, the company would convene a meeting to assess proper compensation to Chang's family. He said that Chang's case was unique and the isolated case should not be used to guage the company's working environment.
The rotational work of the company should not pose such a big pressure on employees, Tsao said.
(Oct. 13, 2012) China Times: Chen Sen, a deputy director of the CLA, said that Chang's family asked for compensation from FPG, and the employer said that it would pay if it is ruled as an occupational accident. Seventeen members of the CLA's Committee of Identification of Occupational Diseases held two meetings to decide on a ruling. Chen noted that Chang had been a perfectionist about his work, but was often mocked within the company and was even asked to go to a psychiatrist. Contractors also would not work with him. Chang visited the hospital in August, but was not diagnosed as having any mental problem. On misgivings that the CLA's ruling could actually encourage suicide and cause people to "trade their lives for money," the council said that even if a worker commits suicide, such an action will not necessarily be ruled as an occupational accident. FPC Chairman Chen Bao-lang said that both workers and contractors are important assets of the company and that the company has actively provided counseling to both managers and workers. FPG has more than 74,000 workers in Taiwan. Only two suicides by company employees have been reported in recent years, one in Taipei and the other at the naphtha cracking plant. Hsu Liu-pin, head of Maioiao's council, said that as far as he knows, a lot of Mailiao people working in the plant said that their greatest pressure from work comes from the demands of their superiors. Deputy chief of the council Hsu Chih-hao said the naphtha cracking plant provides decent salaries and better fringe benefits, but at the same time, workloads and responsibilities are also greater. The most common complaint he hears from workers is that they have to take responsibility for a failed task even if it is the equipment that has a problem. Plant workers said they felt sad at Chang's death. While the CLA ruling offered future protection to the workers, they said they hoped that the regrettable tragedgy will not take place again. Taiwan's high-tech industry is notorious for its overtime hours, and high-tech companies have provided various measures to help workers relieve pressure, although a cut in working hours and workloads would be more instrumental. Morris Chang, chairman of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world's largest contract chip maker, said "to work is to do the right thing in an efficient way." Chang himself does not work for more than 50 hours a week, and he hopes TSMC workers will follow suit as "rest is more important than anything else." He leaves the office between 6-6:30 p.m everyday and does not work on weekends. In addition to work, he thinks time should be devoted to his family and nurturing hobbies. He usually reads after work to recharge himself. TSMC's headquarters have a fitness center, karaoke facilities, clinics for dental and medical issues, a coffee shop and a bookstore, which can all be used by employees and their dependents. (Oct. 13, 2012) (By Lilian Wu)


Updated : 2021-03-08 10:00 GMT+08:00