January 5, 2023
TAIPEI – Taiwanese shipping giant Evergreen Marine has rewarded employees with massive year-end bonuses worth between 10 and 52 months of salary each, after posting bumper 2022 profits.
Local media outlets reported how most of the company’s junior workers with a monthly salary of NT$40,000 (S$1,750) took home a bonus worth NT$2 million each last weekend, which is equivalent to more than four years’ pay.
The 2022 payout is even higher than the 40 months’ bonus that the company paid in 2021, which had set a record at the time for the highest year-end bonus ever paid by a listed Taiwanese company.
Thanks to the rebound of global container shipping lines following pandemic lockdowns, as well as soaring shipping prices, the company reported a net profit of NT$304.35 billion for the first three quarters of 2022. The 2022 financial year earnings are expected to be released in March.
“The company had good earnings and lots of surplus cash. As it is not aggressively expanding its business operations, it gave some of that cash in the form of bonuses to reward employees, which I think is very reasonable,” said Professor Chiou Jiunn-rong, an economics expert from the National Central University in Taiwan.
Evergreen Marine did not immediately respond to The Straits Times’ request for comment, though it previously told local reporters that workers were compensated based on their performance.
While its employees celebrated, workers in some of its parent company Evergreen Group’s other divisions, particularly the airline business, were not too pleased, as they reportedly received much smaller bonuses.
The difference in payout caused airport ground staff working for Evergreen Airline Services (EGAS) – an Eva Air affiliate – to go on strike over the New Year weekend, which led to minor flight delays affecting 4,000 travellers at Taoyuan Airport in Taipei.
The ground staff were reportedly given one month’s salary as bonus, while other Eva Air workers were given bonuses worth up to three months’ wages. On Jan 1 and 2, around a third of the company’s 300-odd ground crew walked out in protest, according to the Liberty Times newspaper.
The company called in temporary workers to make up for the shortage, while some of its executives, including EGAS chairman Chen Yo-yu, were photographed handling luggage and clearing cabins.
Airport ground operations returned to normal on Jan 3, though there are now concerns that staff may go on strike again during the typically busy Chinese New Year week later in January.
This is not the first time that Eva Air has found itself at the centre of controversy over low bonuses. In 2021, more than a quarter of its ground staff reportedly quit after receiving a bonus of NT$10,000 each.
In Taiwan, there is always discussion online towards the end of the year over which companies will hand out the biggest bonuses.
Professor Cheng Chih-yu, a labour policy expert from National Chengchi University in Taipei, told ST bonuses are important as they potentially count heavily in an employee’s total compensation.
“Some companies choose to give low fixed monthly salaries for years and reward employees with bigger bonuses instead, because it saves them money overall. If they raise monthly wages, then they would have to fork out more in the long term for workers’ insurance plans and pensions,” he said.