A demonstration by former highway toll collectors confronted President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday as she attended the Taipei Dragon Boat Festival, while later in the day in Pingtung, she was met by a protest against the government’s pension reform proposals.
In the morning, Tsai briefly visited the Dajia Riverside Park in Taipei’s Zhongshan District (中山) to cheer for a dragon boat crew representing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but her visit was marred by the demonstration by former toll collectors, who police kept at a distance from the president.
Protesters demanded that Tsai honor an agreement between the government and the former toll collectors made on Aug. 16 last year, which promised them NT$580 million (US$19.26 million at the current exchange rate) in unemployment compensation by Jan. 15 this year.
PHOTO: Chiang Ying-ying, AP
The amount has not been paid in full or in total compliance with the agreement, Former Freeway Toll Collectors Self-Help Organization president Sun Hsiu-luan (孫秀鑾) said.
The Ministry of Labor paid only about NT$132 million to 884 former toll collectors — NT$150,000 per person — on Jan. 15, and the ministry has said it objects to the terms agreed between the Cabinet and the organization, Sun said.
The organization has staged a sit-in in front of the Presidential Office Building since May 15, with members camping on nearby sidewalks and staging protests daily.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
“We cannot accept it. We have been protesting for more than 10 days, but the government has made no response at all. We staged the protest today because we do not want to lose any opportunity to have dialogue with the government,” Sun said. “We are utterly disappointed. The DPP administration has called itself the government most willing to communicate, but what it does is disregard the public’s voice.”
A total of 947 former toll collectors lost their jobs in 2013 when the nation adopted an electronic toll collection system.
A series of rallies have been held in the intervening years against the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC, 遠東電子收費), with protesters saying the firm did not meet its obligations to introduce employment opportunities to former toll collectors or make severance payments.
Tsai praised the DPP boating team’s performance, but did not make any comment on the protest.
Later yesterday, scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators in Pingtung as opponents of the government’s pension reform proposals rallied outside a venue where Tsai was attending a concert sponsored by the Presidential Office at the Pingtung Performing Arts Center.
Hundreds of protesters also rallied in front of the center to protest against proposed cuts to public servants’ pensions.
The president’s motorcade entered the venue from the back without interacting with protesters.
Sporadic conflicts broke out between demonstrators and the police, but no injuries were reported.
The protesters delivered a petition to a Presidential Office official.
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