The Taichung Environmental Protection Bureau’s workers’ union held a meeting with representatives from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) city council caucus last Thursday to discuss the city’s lack of sanitation workers and their excessive workload. The head of the bureau, Liu Bang-yu, said during the meeting that the bureau is planning to hire 1,200 sanitation workers over the next three years, but that next year they will only be able to hire 84 people, continuing the serious deficit of sanitation workers in the city.
However, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu told the media last Thursday that the bureau should review the efficiency of its workers before doing anything else, adding that every agency complains about a lack of personnel, and when they fail to perform their tasks or make mistakes, some claim it is because of staff shortages. He also said that after the city and county merged the number of sanitation workers remained the same.
Lee Tien-shen, DPP caucus whip, says that among all of Taiwan’s five special municipalities, the ratio of sanitation workers in Greater Taichung is the lowest with one sanitation worker for every 970 people, while the ratio is 1:956 in Greater Tainan, 1:800 in Greater Kaohsiung, 1:520 in Taipei, and 1:500 in New Taipei City. Lee says that he hopes the mayor will take the opinions of low-level sanitation workers more seriously.
Chao Yi-tse, president of the bureau’s union, along with other union leaders, went to the meeting last Thursday to speak out for sanitation workers, saying that despite an increase in workload after the county and city governments merged, the number of sanitation workers was never increased. Some tasks include collecting garbage, sweeping roads, collecting recycling, and disposing wastewater, but as districts continue to be redrawn, not only does the number of people a single sanitation worker has to service remain the highest among all five of Taiwan’s special municipalities, the area to be serviced is also the largest.
Chao says that the bureau currently employs between 400 and 500 temporary sanitation workers, but that they receive a lower rate of pay than regular sanitation workers doing the same job. Some temporary workers have been working there for up to 10 years, and still do not get paid as much as regular employees, which he says needs to be changed.
City councilor Chen Shu-hua says that one sanitation worker in Hsitun District has to service 3,000 residents, and questions how much pressure is put on one individual, adding that the city government should adjust the number of personnel working in each district.
Liu replied that the city currently employs around 3,000 sanitation workers, including temporary workers, but that after the city and county merged, the workload did increase to include other tasks, for example, collecting recycling and disposing wastewater, and admits that the current workforce is indeed not big enough, but says due to a lack of funding, they will only be able to hire another 84 new employees next year and will have to continue its struggle to hire more people.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)