More than 12,000 TRA workers opt for day off on Labor Day

04/16/2022 02:38 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, April 16 (CNA) More than 12,000 Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) employees, including 90 percent of its drivers, have vowed not to work on May 1, to protest against the government's proposal to corporatize the transportation agency, according to TRA on Saturday.

Based on shift schedules, 1,200 TRA drivers should be working on Labor Day, which falls on a Monday this year, making that weekend a three-day holiday, but fewer than 40 of them may actually show up for work, said the TRA, which operates Taiwan's only island-wide railway network.

As a result of this, all train services on Eastern lines that day will be cancelled and Western lines will see only a few commuter train operations, the TRA said.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), which supervises the TRA, said on Saturday that contingency plans to provide passengers with alternative transport amid the expected disruption and to refund TRA passengers tickets will be announced next week.

Update: Contingency plans for train union's Labor Day protest released (April 22)

Taiwan Railway Labor Union (TRLU) on Friday initiated an industrial action in which it asked its members to take a rest day on Labor Day as they are entitled to, rather than follow their shift schedule, to force the government to recall from Legislature a draft bill on converting TRA into a corporation.

The labor union was not opposed to the ministry's plan to corporatize TRA, but the draft bill referred to the Legislature for deliberation was put forth without proper consultation with TRA workers, TRLU Chairman Chen Shih-chieh (陳世杰) said.

Chen said the union insisted that the bill should be withdrawn from the Legislature first and be replaced with a new version after the ministry and the labor union hold discussions and reach consensus.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) called a meeting with leaders of TRLU and National Train drivers' Union on Friday to try to iron out their differences over the issue, but talks broke down in less than an hour.

The draft bill was approved by the Cabinet in early March, as part of the government's efforts to reform the debt-ridden, antiquated TRA, amid public calls for reform of the agency following two deadly train accidents in 2018 and 2021.

One of the major disagreements between the two sides lies in how to pay off the TRA's debts after it is corporatized.

As of the end of last year, the TRA had accumulated NT$420.801 billion (US$14.45 billion) in debt, according to its Director-General Du Wei (杜微).

Update: TRA head confirms service suspension on Labor Day due to union protest (April 24)

In a statement in response to the draft bill issued by TRLU in March, the union argued that all TRA debts should be handled by the government, as opposed to having the agency assume its debt, as proposed in the bill.

TRLU also argued in the statement that the draft bill didn't give any guaranties for TRA employees' salaries, promotion or pensions.

Speaking to reporters after Friday's meeting, Wang said he was ready to discuss issues related to salary, benefits and safety management, but the labor union leaders demanded that the bill be recalled before any talks could begin.

Wang said he has refused to take back the bill and would continue the push for TRA reform even though it has encountered more difficulties than expected.

(By Wang Shu-fen and Shih Hsiu-chuan)

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Update

April 30: TRA to provide 18 commuter train runs on Labor Day despite strike

April 29: Extra bus services to be provided on Labor Day due to TRA strike

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