Cabinet seeks solutions to row over statutory agencies' staff

Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) The Executive Yuan said Sunday further discussion is required to decide whether the employees at two statutory agencies should be given the status of civil servants when those agencies are brought under government ministries. Huang Fu-yuan, director-general of Personnel Administration under the Cabinet, said Premier Sean Chen has instructed the administration to continue to "coordinate" with the Examination Yuan on the issue. The matter involves a Cabinet proposal that some 1,094 finance employees, professional technical personnel and technicians from the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) and the Bureau of Labor Insurance (BLI) be given the status of civil servants when the two agencies are incorporated into government ministries. In a government restructuring this year, the BNHI is expected to come under the portfolio of a new Ministry of Health and Welfare. The health ministry will comprise the Department of Health, as well as the Department of Social Affairs and Child Welfare Bureau that are now under the Ministry of the Interior. The BLI will be incorporated into the Ministry of Labor, which is currently the Council of Labor Affairs. Government agencies have been debating the staff status issue since the Cabinet submitted to the Legislature a draft amendment to the Organic Act of the Bureau of National Health Insurance, allowing for employees of the bureau to be defined as civil servants. The Ministry of Civil Service (MOCS) of the Examination Yuan has voiced opposition to the draft bill, saying it would increase the financial burden on the country since additional funds would have to be allocated for benefits and pensions for the bureaus' staff. The Ministry of Examination (MOE), which is responsible for holding civil service exams and accrediting civil servants, said it does not rule out the possibility of seeking a constitutional interpretation to resolve the matter. In response to media reports that the Cabinet is considering an exam for the two bureaus' employees to obtain civil servant status, an MOE official said such an exam should be open to the public, in accordance with the Civil Service Examination Act. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the MOE will seek a constitutional interpretation even if the MOCS and the Examination Yuan eventually decide not to do so. (By Angela Tsai, Sophia Yeh and Jamie Wang)