In an attempt to avoid a seven-day railway strike during the Lunar New Year holiday next year, the government yesterday presented the Taiwan Railway Labor Union with a peace offering of new benefits.
Since the union staged a controversial member's conference that threatened to disrupt train services during the Mid-Autumn Festival last month, the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) has been under pressure to address the union's grievances.
During the conference, the union voted to strike during the Lunar New Year if its demands were not met.
"We've settled two out of three of the points of contention," Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) told legislators yesterday. "The issues of overtime pay and travel subsidization have already been settled. We're still working on bonuses given to train drivers with good safety records."
"I am confident that all three points of contention can be resolved before the Lunar New Year. There will be no strike," Lin said.
The ministry has agreed to reinstate overtime pay that was abolished in the 1980s so that employees are compensated when they must wait to be relieved at the end of their eight-hour shifts. Subsidies for expenses, such as accommodation and food for train drivers stranded away from their hometowns, will be raised by 50 percent, the ministry said.
"Although the Council of Labor Affairs has yet to approve the proposed changes, the ministry is prepared to go through with the said employment benefits," Lin said.
However, the union said that despite Lin's confidence, it had yet to approve the ministry's proposals.
Union secretary-general Chen Han-ching (陳漢卿) said that Lin's promises cut a few corners and neglected the union's main concerns.
Last month's strike vote included only issues of employment benefits. Should the union and the government agree on these issues, the union would be breaking the Labor Union Law (
The union's main goal is to get a public guarantee that the TRA's privatization will be halted. It also wants the rights and benefits of current and retired employees to be protected; the ministry to take on the railway administration's debts resulting from loss-making stations and the cost of disability discount tickets and infrastructure maintenance; and the Taiwan Railway Administration Organic Law (
"The government's offer is a very small one," Chen said. "We could easily step away from it. We want to talk to the ministry about all of our requests, but they only want to discuss the issues of employment benefits."
Responding to Chen's accusation, TRA Deputy Director-General Hsu Ta-wen (
"We can't do anything about the other requests as they entail the cooperation of other governmental bodies," Hsu said.
While Chen refused to say whether the union planned to accept Lin's offer, he said that the union's main objective was to protect the future of the TRA.
Pointing to what he called a legal flaw, Chen admitted that if a consensus were reached over employment benefits, it would be illegal for the union to strike.
"When we voted during the Mid-Autumn Festival to strike, we were only legally able to vote on issues of employment benefits. Therefore, we can only strike based on these three points," he said.
According to Lin, negotiations will be halted until next Wednesday, when the union elects a new president.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations