Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Bus workers in Taipei protest

SHOW US THE MONEYPetitions in hand, the protesters targeted the KMT and a presidential advisor before receiving some late support

BY CODY YIU  /  STAFF REPORTER

Demanding job security and fair wages, striking Taichung Bus Company workers yesterday submitted petitions at the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) headquarters, the Presidential Office and the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA)

The protesters were expressing their anger over the Taichung City Government's handling of the dispute, which saw workers walk off the job on Oct. 16 and enter into negotiations with both the city government and the bus company.

"The Taichung City Government owns 10 percent of the Taichung Bus Company's shares. Mayor Jason Hu (胡自強) is a KMT member and used to be the government's representative on the board, but he quit the board as soon as the strike started," said protest organizer Liu Hsin-heng (劉欣恆).

Liu added that, as owner of 10 percent of company shares, the city government was the largest of its shareholders.

"Hu didn't have a new representative put on the board after he quit, as he was supposed to do, and we suspect this was because he wanted to steer clear of taking responsibility for the people of Taichung," said Liu.

The CLA, however, indicated that further action would be taken against management at the bus company.

"We are going to impose a fine on the Taichung Bus Company for dismissing its employees illegally," said Wu Chen-ling (吳征陵), deputy director of the Labor Relations Department at the CLA.

A statement released by the Taichung Bus Labor Union said that the strike was triggered by both a 40 to 70 percent wage reduction that commenced in June, as well as a delay in issuing September's wages. On Oct. 27, 180 workers were dismissed for failing to show up to work for three consecutive days.

"According to Article Seven of the law on disputed wages, if a dispute occurs between employees and an employer, the employer is not allowed to break contract or act against employees during negotiations," said union representative Huang Chiu-yun (黃秋雲).

The 200-strong group of protesters first handed their petition to an official at the KMT headquarters, before handing another in to the Presidential Office.

"Chang Chi-chung (張啟仲), a presidential advisor, is the chairman of the Taichung Bus Company, yet he has been taking absolutely no notice of our entitlements," said Liu.

The union alleged that Chang had regularly postponed paying wages. The bus company to date allegedly owes its employees a total of NT$70 million in retirement payments, NT$10.8 million in performance bonuses and NT$2.52 million in special bonuses.

The union said it believes that the company is undergoing a serious financial crisis and that the company's money might have been transferred to a subsidiary.

At their last stop on their Taipei protest, the workers asked the CLA to look into whether the bus company had illegally transferred money, preventing employees from recovering their entitlements.

The CLA agreed with the workers that the company had breached regulations by dismissing its employees during the negotiation period, said Yang Hsi-sheng (楊錫昇), a CLA spokesperson.

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