GUIDELINES:The TRA has yet to make an official announcement, as the law forbids it from taking action while management and workers are engaged in arbitration
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter
More than 300 Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) employees are to be punished for going on strike during the Lunar New Year holiday, the TRA said.
The strike was launched by the Taiwan Railway Union (TRU) in protest against a personnel shortage that has been plaguing the agency for years.
The union defended its action, saying workers were legally entitled to take the Lunar New Year holiday off.
TRA Director-General Jason Lu (鹿潔身) said at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee that 331 employees are to be punished for being absent on the days they were scheduled to work, based on a resolution made by the agency’s disciplinary committee.
Of the total, 235 are to be given one major demerit each for missing more than two days of work.
Six are to receive two minor demerits for missing two work days, and nine are to be given one minor demerit for missing one work day.
The penalties were determined based on the guidelines on rewards and punishments for civil servants, but the union still lodged a complaint against the TRA with the Ministry of Labor, Lu said.
“We have yet to make an official announcement on the punishment because the Act for Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes (勞資爭議法) stipulates that employers are banned from taking actions that would harm employees while labor and management are still engaged in arbitration. We can only approve and announce the decision when the arbitration is finished,” he said.
Although the union has argued that members had requested to take the Lunar New Year holiday off before the holiday began, Lu said the agency had also sent out two official notices reminding employees to show up for work based on the work schedule.
The union has accused the agency of suppressing its activities using improper means, but its complaints were not about the punishment, Lu said.
If the employees do not accept the penalties, they can seek administrative remedies by appealing to the Civil Service Protection and Training Commission, he added.
“The TRA director-general disregarded workers’ anger over the work schedule, which forces people to overwork. He did not even consider reforming TRA’s work-shift system after a major freeway bus accident that killed 33 people last month. Instead, he kept telling people that the TRA would severely punish employees who went on strike. He also showed contempt of the law by announcing the decision of the disciplinary committee before the arbitration is over,” the union said.
While Lu reiterated that TRA employees should follow the agency’s work rules and have a duty to serve the public, he has disregarded passengers’ safety by letting employees overwork, the union said.
The union said that all the 337 cases it had submitted to the labor ministry were about the TRA’s rulings against its employees for being absent from work.
Lu should retract the punishment while they are waiting for the decision by the labor ministry’s arbitration committee, the union said, adding that the agency and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications should not oppress its workers like a demanding, but cheap employer.