Hundreds of members of the Taiwan Power Labor Union yesterday stage a protest against the government’s draft amendment to the Electricity Act outside a public meeting held in Taipei.
Proposed amendments to the Electricity Act (電業法) yesterday drew heated protests from the Taiwan Power Labor Union, which accused the Ministry of Economic Affairs of inflating its claims of public support.
Union members staged a protest outside, while the Bureau of Energy hosted a public meeting on the proposed revisions.
The demonstrators shouted that the changes would “dismember” Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) while illegally profiting private firms, and called on Minister of Economic Affairs Lee Chih-kung (李世光) to resign.
They said Lee was a “liar” for claiming that the ministry had reached a consensus with the union over proposed changes at two earlier meetings.
“You are just putting us off and going through the motions because you are under pressure to send a draft version to the Executive Yuan by Friday,” said union president Ting Tso-yi (丁作一), who attended the meeting.
Ting added that the draft legislation was “completely different” from what Lee had discussed with the union.
Several activists got into a shouting match with anti-nuclear activist Yang Huo-mu (楊火木), before withdrawing from the meeting in protest.
“Other than slowing down passage of the law to allow further consideration, our main demand is that employees’ right to work be included in the legislation to make sure they are guaranteed,” because they might be laid off if Taipower spins off some of its business units during privatization, Ting said.
In addition to potentially splitting up the company, the proposed changes would allow electricity producers to sell directly to consumers for the first time.
“We hope to be able to work things out with communication, but if communication does not work, we will use all necessary measures,” Ting said, adding that the union would not rule out options such as refusing to work on typhoon days.
A scheduled union meeting on Thursday next week would determine what measures the union would take, he said.
Last month, the union threatened to hold a strike, but backed down following a meeting with Lee.
Union vice secretary for public relations Hung Ching-fu (洪清福) said the government plans could mean price increases for people living in remote areas, echoing concerns voiced by Taipower officials on Tuesday that ultra-high voltage users would monopolize cheaper forms of energy, leaving the general public with higher electricity prices.
“[Private power operators] will not want to service remote areas, Aboriginal communities living in the mountains or some rural areas, so these areas will likely face higher electricity prices,” Hung said.
Bureau of Energy Secretary-General Lee Chun-li (李君禮) said that the government would not allow drastic energy price hikes for the general public.
A new government bureau would be established to regulate the electricity market, Lee said.
Lee Chih-kung promised to hold further discussions based on the views presented by various groups and ministries, adding that legislation discussed at yesterday’s meeting was a “rough draft.”
Additional reporting by Huang Pei-chun, Lin Chu-han and CNA