Wed, Mar 27, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Rail workers get their way

MAKING TRACKS The national railway company's workers convinced officials that the firm's contract with the high-speed railway company must be renegotiated

By tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

Workers from the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) yesterday successfully called for the renegotiation of a contract between the TRA and the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC). They said the present contract would lead to a reduction in TRA services that could cost them their jobs.

Over 1,000 TRA workers from all over Taiwan protested against the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in front of the Legislative Yuan, which was to host a public hearing on the issue yesterday. They said that the ministry had helped the THSRC to take unfair advantage of the TRA by forcing the TRA to sign an unfair contract with the THSRC last year.

The dispute concerns usage by THSRC -- the private company which is constructing the Taipei to Kaohsiung High Speed Railway Line -- of a TRA platform and two railway lines in Taipei.

To help the THSRC's construction project, the TRA was asked to make available in perpetuity to THSRC one platform at Taipei Main Station and two railway lines between that station and Sungshan Station in Taipei from July -- which would force the TRA to cancel 104 of its current 376 daily train services between Taipei and Sungshan. The TRA workers say this will cost the company NT$2.4 billion annually.

The existing contract does not require THSRC to pay compensation to the TRA, but the government is bound by the terms of its own build-operate-transfer contract with the THSRC, which states that it is the government's responsibility to provide such TRA facilities as the THSRC may request.

Huang De-zh (黃德治), managing director of the TRA, explained that "to follow the ministry's policy of developing a high-speed rail system in Taiwan, the TRA had no choice but to comply with the contract, even though the staff from the TRA all thought that the contract is not fair." Huang's explanation was part of a public hearing held by the PFP caucus.

The PFP legislative caucus hosted the public hearing, which was attended by representatives from the ministry -- including its bureau of high-speed rail and the TRA -- and representatives of the workers.

The workers' representatives asked the government to ask the THSRC to pay a total of NT$3.6 billion for the TRA's loss, and NT$23 billion as rent for using the facilities.

Chang Chia-juch (張家祝), vice minister of transport and communications, commented that "the TRA workers' requests are reasonable, and I would try to help them out."

Chang emphasized that both the TRA and the high-speed railway project is administered by the ministry, and the two should not be in conflict with each other.

The meeting concluded with the workers' representatives agreeing with Chang that a new contract should be negotiated and that the TRA need not comply with the THSRC's requests until the TRA and THSRC have agreed on a sum for compensation.

The TRA has about 17,000 employees and loses some NT$65 billion annually.

"We need a clear transport policy that separates the high speed railway from the TRA, otherwise, the TRA will just be out of the market," said PFP legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪).

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