Members of a self-help group for former freeway toll collectors launched a six-day campout and cookout outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) in Taipei yesterday evening and threatened to paralyze the freeways if they failed to receive satisfactory responses to their requests from the ministry on Friday.
The former toll collectors had previously asked that the government find them to work in government agencies or offer severance packages based on each worker’s seniority.
Their position appeared to have changed yesterday, as they said that they are willing to accept jobs provided by Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Corp (遠通電收, FETC) if the company offers an employment stabilization fund and saves the fund in an account kept by the National Freeway Bureau.
“Currently, the former freeway toll collectors have been given two options: Either you accept the jobs offered by FETC or take five months of salary as a severance payment,” self-help group representative Susan Chen (陳素香) said. “Even though the workers were told that their salaries in the new jobs would be comparable to those of toll collectors for five years, the company thought it could save more if the workers simply took the severance payments and left. We speculate that former toll collectors were given such a hard time at their new jobs because by doing so, the workers would not be able to stand it and choose to leave. The freeway bureau cannot blame toll collectors for not accepting the jobs offered by FETC, because they were not given any guarantee.”
Chen estimated that FETC could save NT$570 million (US$19 million) if the ex-toll collectors simply took the severance payments.
“We want FETC to offer the stated amount as a guarantee fund,” she said. “If not, we want the government to arrange jobs for us or compensate us.”
Chen added that the FETC had violated its contract with National Freeway Bureau, for which it could be fined more than NT$500 million. The fines could be used to compensate the former toll collectors, she said.
Before heading to the campout venue in the evening, the former toll collectors protested in the afternoon at the freeway interchange of National Freeway No. 3 at the intersection of Xinhai Road and Keelung Road in Taipei. The protesters ridiculed the blue light emitted by FETC’s electronic toll collection system by painting their faces blue and carrying lamps shining blue light.
Scuffles erupted between the police and protesters when FETC spokesperson Rachel Chen (陳世莉) arrived alone at the protest scene to hear the appeals of the workers. She was quickly surrounded by angry protesters who demanded to know why the company publishing advertisements in major newspapers in Taiwan with what they said were false accusations against the former toll collectors.
Chen was escorted by the police away from the protest site. Protesters accused the police of favoring big corporations and they pushed and pinched Chen.
The contract between the National Freeway Bureau and FETC — the contractor administering the electronic freeway toll collection system — stipulates that the contractor is required to help the unemployed toll collectors find new employment by matching them with jobs available within FETC or the Far Eastern Group.
The agency also required the contractor to provide interviews for toll collectors who wish to find new jobs by the end of this month.