In the case-at-issue (Taiwan Chiayi District Court Labor Litigation No. 29 Ruling of 2010, hereafter the Final Ruling), the father (YEN Yi-Cai) of the plaintiffs (YEN Ya-Ying, YEN Pei-Na, YEN Yu-Man, YEN Po-Chi and YEN Ting-Yu) was discharged from his post as mayor of Dongshi Township, Chiayi County on March 1, 1990, and was granted a discharge pension pursuant to the “Act Governing Discharge Pension for Mayors of Cities and Townships of Taiwan Province”. Afterwards YEN Yi-Cai was appointed engineer and director of the administration department of the fifth district by the Taiwan Provincial Water Supply Company Ltd. (reorganized as the Taiwan Water Supply Company Ltd., hereafter the Water Supply Company) under the “Taiwan Provincial State-owned Enterprise Employees Temporary Appointment Rules” (amended and promulgated on November 15, 1990, and repealed on March 2, 2017, hereafter the Appointment Rules). He died in office on September 30, 2005. On September 28, 2010, The plaintiffs filed a case with the Chiayi District Court, claiming survivors’ compensation and its accumulated interest against the Water Supply Company under the “Taiwan Provincial Government Subordinate Enterprise Employees Retirement Remuneration and Reward Rules” (promulgated on December 17, 1991, hereafter the Retirement Remuneration and Reward Rules).
The Chiayi District Court ruled that YEN Yi-Cai was an employee of a Taiwan Provincial state-owned enterprise, and could be classified as a “civil servant who also has the legal status of a worker” according to Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act, and that laws relevant to public functionaries should apply in this case. The claim for survivors’ compensation by the plaintiffs under Articles 6 and 12 of the Retirement Remuneration and Reward Rules is thus an exercise of their right in public law to request property. The court held that any dispute should be adjudicated in accordance with the procedures regarding administrative remedies, ordinary courts having no jurisdiction in the matter. Therefore, the court then ruled the case should be transferred to the Kaohsiung High Administrative Court according to Article 31-2, Paragraph 2 of the Civil Procedural Act. The ruling was final because the two parties did not appeal.
The Kaohsiung High Administrative Court, however, held that YEN Yi-Cai was appointed by the Water Supply Company under the Appointment Rules but he was not a public functionary appointed under the law. According to J.Y. Interpretation No. 270, Yen was neither eligible to apply for retirement pursuant to the Public Functionary Retirement Act, nor could his inheritors claim survivors’ compensation according to the “Act Governing the Payment of Compensation to Surviving Dependents of Public Functionaries”. Furthermore, Yen was neither a proxy designated by a government agency or a public juridical person serving the Company on its behalf under Article 27 of the Company Act, nor was he a company person with an official rank appointed by competent authorities under the law. Pursuant to J.Y. Interpretation No. 305, the employment contract between Yen and the Water Supply Company was therefore governed by private law. The claim by Yen’s inheritors for survivors’ compensation against the Water Supply Company was a private dispute and should be adjudicated by ordinary courts. The Kaohsiung High Administrative Court therefore petitioned for a unified interpretation pursuant to Article 7, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 1 of the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act as well as Article 178 of the Administrative Litigation Act. This Court granted the petition since it met the requirements of the said Acts. Our holding is as below.
The State adopts a dual system of litigation and the Legislative Yuan has the discretion to draw a line between civil jurisdiction and administrative jurisdiction by examining the nature of a case and the function of the currently existing litigation system (for instance, its court organization, assignment of personnel, procedural rules as well as immediate and effective protection of the people’s rights and so on) (see J.Y. Interpretations Nos. 448, 466 and 691). If the law does not provide jurisdiction, courts shall decide legal remedies based upon the nature of disputes as well as the function of the currently existing litigation system. In other words, disputes arising from relationships governed by private law shall be determined by ordinary courts; disputes arising from relationships governed by public law shall be adjudicated by administrative courts (see J.Y. Interpretations Nos. 448, 466, 691, 695 and 758).
Moreover, Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act provides that: “In the case of a civil servant who also has the legal status of a worker, civil service laws and regulations shall govern such matters as appointments or dismissals, wages and salaries, rewards and punishments, retirement, survivors’ compensation and insurance (including for occupational accidents). If other labor conditions are more favorable than the relevant provisions of the Act, the more favorable parts shall apply.” The former part of Article 50 of the Enforcement Rules of the Labor Standards Act stipulates that: “A civil servant who concurrently has the status of a worker provided in Article 84 of the Act denotes a person who, under relevant civil service statutes and administrative regulations, is appointed, assigned, invited or selected to work as an employee in any business (or industry) provided in Article 3 of the Act and receives remuneration for it.” Article 2, Subparagraph 5 of the Retirement Remuneration and Reward Rules provides that: “A member of staff provided for in the Rules is a civil servant who also has the legal status of a worker as listed in the Province-owned Enterprise Personnel Chart or in the Budget Personnel Chart as follows:… …(5) Taiwan Provincial Water Supply Company Ltd.” According to the docket of the Final Ruling, YEN Yi-Cai was appointed by a province-owned enterprise. The Water Supply Company is an enterprise under Article 3 of the Labor Standards Act and Yen’s position (as an engineer and director of the administration department of the fifth district in the Water Supply Company) was a “civil servant who also has the legal status of a worker” listed in the personnel chart of the Water Supply Company. This fact was not in dispute in the Final Ruling.
The above Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act provides that “civil service laws and regulations shall govern” survivors’ compensation for the surviving relatives of a civil servant who also has the legal status of a worker, but they do not stipulate that disputes arising from the said matter shall be adjudicated by either ordinary courts or administrative courts. The relationship between a state-owned enterprise and its personnel, as set out in J.Y. Interpretation No. 305, in addition “the relationships with government agencies who assign or appoint persons who are assigned by the state or other public legal persons to serve the companies on their behalf according to Article 27 of the Company Act and those who are directly appointed and awarded official ranks by the agencies-in-charge to serve the companies, are still relationships of public law.” “State-owned enterprises that are formed according to the Company Act are private legal persons, and their relationships with their employees are contractual ones under private law.” As a result, in state-owned enterprises established under the Company Act, except for the above-mentioned personnel, the relationship between the staff and the enterprise is of private law. Although the authorities concerned promulgated the “Retirement Remuneration and Reward Rules” to unify requirements regarding retirement and application for compensation, this only demonstrates the supervision of the authorities concerned and does not change the nature of the relationship between state-owned enterprises and their employees. Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act also does not change the relationship between state-owned enterprises and their employees. Accordingly, in the case-at-issue the relationship between the father of the plaintiffs and the Water Supply Company is one of private law and thus the claim for survivors’ compensation should be based on the employment contract. The above-mentioned “Retirement Remuneration and Reward Rules” are therefore part of a contractual relationship and disputes arising from them shall be of private law and adjudicated by the ordinary court: the Taiwan Chiayi District Court.