FALSE SECURITY:Activists accused the government of employing between 70,000 and 80,000 people as short-term contractors to cut expenses and skirt labor rights
By Lii Wen / Staff reporter
Laid-off freeway toll collectors kneel in unison during a protest procession from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
More than 300 former freeway toll collectors yesterday took to the streets of Taipei to protest what they said were the Executive Yuan’s unfair accusations toward them and to demand better treatment for short-term government contractors.
The laid-off toll collectors have been engaged in a prolonged campaign since January last year, when the nation implemented a new electronic toll collection system and tore down all tollbooths, rendering them jobless.
In a gesture to express their anguish and despair, the protesters knelt down on the ground after every six steps they took, acting in unison to the beat of a drum for more than an hour throughout the course of the march.
The solemn procession started at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei and ended in front of the Executive Yuan, a distance of about 1.5km.
Wearing kneepads and their signature orange T-shirts, the protesters each carried an egg to symbolize the fragile nature of the security offered by government contract jobs.
They accused the ministry of having employed them as short-term contractors every year, despite many of the toll collectors having worked for nearly two decades.
The former toll collectors demanded that the government provide them with severance packages in accordance with their years of service, instead of a fixed seven-month stipend.
Labor activist Kuo Kuan-chun (郭冠均) said the government did little to protect the rights of 70,000 to 80,000 contractors, as contractors often lack job security and severance packages as stipulated by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
He accused the government of employing short-term contractors to cut down on expenses and to evade its responsibility of protecting labor rights, adding that comprehensive reforms must be enacted to cut down on the number of contractors.
Taiwan International Workers’ Association member Betty Chen (陳容柔) rejected comments made last week by Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), who said that the government “could not give any more” and that the protesters’ demands would infringe upon the interests of the majority of taxpayers.
“What exactly did you give the workers when you established the regulations on government contractors?” Chen asked, accusing Mao of fostering antagonism between the former toll collectors and the general public.