COUNTERMEASURES:The TRA said another railway union has agreed to work during the holiday and that it is training reserve staff to take over if needed
By Abraham Gerber and Shelley Shan / Staff reporters
Members of the Taiwan Railway Union yesterday gather in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei to protest against the Taiwan Railways Administration allegedly forcing employees to work overtime and undermining passengers’ safety. Other members also staged a protest near the Taipei Railway Station.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
The Taiwan Railway Union will follow through with its threat to “take a legal holiday” over the Lunar New Year to protest the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) unwillingness to negotiate labor terms, union members said yesterday in a Taipei rally.
About 10 union members and their supporters gathered on the west side of the Taipei Railway Station building, shouting slogans and accusing the agency of forcing employees to work overtime during the holiday crunch next week.
Union president Wang Jieh (王傑) said a petition to take time off during the holiday had been signed by more than 1,000 of about 4,000 employees responsible for station and train operations, vowing delays and cancelations in response to the agency’s refusal to negotiate over holiday shifts and overtime hours.
“The work we normally do is that of laborers, not civil servants, but the TRA wants to use our status as civil servants to pin us down,” he said, adding that agency officials had threatened to mark employees who refused to work as “absent without leave,” violating a Ministry of Labor ruling.
Civil servants and most other public employees are not governed by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and can be compelled to work over holidays under the Civil Service Act (公務員服務法).
However, the Labor Standards Act states that in cases where workers are considered both civil servants and laborers, Civil Service Act standards apply to their salaries, retirement and insurance, “as well as other cases in which it provides better benefits” than the Labor Standards Act.
“Even though we are considered both civil servants and laborers, our national holidays are supposed to be governed by the Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to ask workers whether or not they are willing to work,” Taiwan Railway Union secretary Hsiao Nung-yu (蕭農瑀) said.
Union director Tseng Fan-ye (曾繁宇) accused the agency of trying to cut the number of platform staff, which he said could undermine safety because there would be fewer staff to monitor trains and passenger traffic.
Hiring more employees to allow shift reductions has been a key demand of the union, which was founded last year to compete with the existing company union.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said after a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning that the agency would continue to communicate with the union and has been training reserve staff to fill a potential personnel shortage.
“It would take time to address the union’s demands, such as increasing staff numbers. The TRA is working on meeting those expectations,” Wang said.
The TRA has also discussed the situation with the company union, the Taiwan Railway Labor Union, which understands that some of its appeals are not going to be addressed immediately, Wang said.
The group has said it will cooperate fully with the agency’s plan to transport homebound passengers during the holidays, he said.
Asked about the possibility of 1,000 workers going on strike, Wang said that it would affect railway transport during the most important holiday of the year, but that the TRA has trained substitutes to meet a potential staff shortage.
All reserve staff have undergone three months of training and served as apprentices for 10 to 14 days before being added to the work roster, the agency said.