Mon, Jul 28, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Railway union meeting threatens chaos over holiday

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwan Railway Labor Union's (TRLU) decision to convene a massive members' conference on Sept. 11, the Mid-Autumn Festival, may leave at least 200,000 passengers without a train ticket to go home.

Stressing the members' conference is not intended as industrial action, Chang Wen-cheng (張文正), chairman of the union, however, said yesterday union members will discuss an island-wide strike during next year's Lunar New Year holidays.

"This year's Mid-Autumn Festival does not fall immediately before or after the weekend. For most people, the festival will only give them a single day off. We don't expect a huge number of passengers appearing on the day," Chang said.

He predicted the members' conference will affect about 200,000 travelers.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most significant holidays for family reunions and one of the busiest periods for the railway in the year.

Chang said the labor union chose to stage a major conference and perhaps a large-scale strike on the important holidays because the government has failed to address various problems the 115-year-old railway enterprise is facing.

The railway has around 15,000 workers of which 14,500 are union members.

The union is currently recruiting members to sign up to attend the conference.

"According to the Union Law (工會法), if we can mobilize half of our members to join the conference and two-thirds of the attendees vote for the Lunar New Year holiday strike, we are authorized to launch the strike," Chang said.

Aware of the impact the union's conference will have upon national transportation, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) planned 17 meetings with union members across the island to dissuade them from attending the conference.

Railway workers have been worried about the ministry's plan to turn the loss-making railway enterprise into a corporation. The ministry's inefficiency in handling a workers' pension project and in tackling the railway's debts have also angered them.

The railway's debts total NT$180 billion, according to Chang.

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