Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Negotiations breakthrough averts rail strike

HAPPY NEW YEAR The Taiwan Railway Labor Union officially announced that a strike planned for the Lunar New Year has been cancelled after talks with officials

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Han-ching, president of the Taiwan Railway Labor Union, announces that the union is calling off a strike planned for the Lunar New Year.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

After months of negotiations with government officials, the Taiwan Railway Labor Union (TRLU) yesterday officially announced the cancellation of a seven-day strike that had been slated to take place during the Lunar New Year.

"They didn't completely meet all our requests, but some things cannot be accomplished by the union alone. I just hope the government keeps its promises," said the union's president, Chen Han-ching (陳漢卿), after a three-hour union meeting yesterday afternoon.

The union had presented five demands to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications earlier this year and voted to strike if the ministry failed to satisfactorily meet these demands.

At the top of its list was a request that the government halt plans to privatize and corporatize the Taiwan Railway Administration. The union has now accepted the government's promise that it would not pass any legislation regarding the corporatization of the railway administration without the TRLU's approval.

Both parties have agreed that the schedule for the privatization of the railway administration will be revised after further discussion. The ministry has agreed to take the union's perspectives into account when redrafting privatization policies.

Furthermore, the ministry said in an official statement that it would assume all of the railway administration's debts, an amount estimated at NT$1.8 trillion. The ministry will also subsidize debt-ridden stations on unprofitable railway lines, disability and senior discount tickets, and infrastructure maintenance expenses.

The government has vowed that the Taiwan Railway Administration Organic Law (台鐵組織條例) will be renewed by the Legislative Yuan this month.

The union agreed to accept the employment benefits that the government had offered in October. This includes a 50 percent increase in subsidies for expenses such as accommodation and food for train drivers who are away from their hometowns.

The ministry will also pay bonuses to train drivers with good safety records, and has agreed to compensate for the suspension of these bonuses over the past three years.

Overtime pay will also be reinstated in March.

"The issue of corporatization and privatization needs societal discussion. It's hard to struggle for an ideal without the support of society," Chen said.

"Although other transport options are available, a lot of people still depend on train service. It's difficult for the railway administration to offer the same services when profit is the goal," Chen said.

The ministry said an additional 500 trains would be made available to meet the increased demand over the Lunar New Year.

The decision to abort the strike was passed with 54 votes in favor of cancellation and four against.

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