TURNOVER:The union estimates that about 20 to 30 percent of new workers quit within six months due to schedules its members said were unreasonable
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter
Taiwan Railway Union members perform a skit highlighting overwork caused by personnel shortages at the Taiwan Railways Administration during a protest outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
About 400 Taiwan Railway Union members yesterday afternoon demonstrated outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei to demand that the Taiwan Railways Administration address a personnel shortage.
The union also demanded that workers be given sufficient time off and additional overtime pay, saying that it has not ruled out going on strike during the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday next week if the administration fails to respond positively in a week.
The union was formed last month, with most its members being younger employees at the administration.
Union chairman Wang Jieh (王傑) said these younger workers decided to speak up after seeing too many injustices carried out by the Taiwan Railway Labor Union — established years ago and consisting mostly of middle-aged and older employees — and the administration’s management, which resulted in a deterioration of their work environment and a number of accidents.
“We think that the administration’s problem is not only outdated facilities, but also a shortage of workers. The number of employees has dwindled from about 23,000 in 1971 to about 13,000,” Wang said. “Apart from retired workers, the agency cannot seem to keep its recruits.”
Wang said government promises to recruit more employees were lies, as positions have been filled with contractors and people serving alternative military service.
“What the public cannot imagine is our work schedule. Our shifts leave us working almost every day of the year, and we have to work 12 hours daily over two consecutive days before we can get one day off,” he said.
“While it looks like we can get 24 hours of rest, that break is from 12am until 7:30am the next day. In other words, we never get a complete rest day,” he said.
Train conductors, maintenance workers and electricians are underpaid when considering the number of hours and amount of work they do on the job, Wang said, adding that conductors do not receive subsidies for expenses when spending the night outside of their hometowns and that not all time spent at work is counted as work hours.
Maintenance workers and electricians never receive overtime pay equivalent to the number of hours they actually work, he said.
The protesters demanded that the administration recruit enough workers to address the personnel shortage within two years and allow for a full rest day for every two 12-hour work days, as well as an extra day off within a week.
They also asked that they be paid for working overtime in accordance with the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
Huang Kuo-hsun (黃國勛), a ticket sales clerk at Taipei Railway Station, told the Taipei Times the group estimates that about 20 percent to 30 percent of new employees quit within six months because of unreasonable work schedules.
An estimated 500 to 600 workers need to be hired so that the administration has enough employees for three shifts, he said.
In response to the demands, the administration formed an ad hoc task force to improve work schedules that is to meet on Saturday, saying that it hopes to hear the thoughts, observations and ideas from as many employees as possible.
The agency also set aside funds to remodel dorms used by workers who overnight outside of their hometowns for work.