Sat, Nov 17, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Rail workers protest over aid fund

FUND FRENZY The railway mutual aid fund, started in 1962, has accumulated approximately NT$1.17 billion in contributions, but it has already paid out NT$1.74 billion

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Railway Administration Labor Union protesters confront riot police with water balloons and bottles yesterday outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei to demand a refund of the mutual aid fund.

PHOTO: HSU MIN-JUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Water balloons and bottles were scattered around the entrance of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday as members of the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) Labor Union demanded the return of their mutual aid fund.

More than 500 TRA union members first gathered at the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall before setting off toward the MOTC headquarters on Renai Road, arriving at about 1:40pm.

Scuffles broke out at around 3pm when some of the union workers started throwing water balloons and bottles at the police.

About 20 minutes later, some of the angry TRA protesters tried to push through a row of barriers to get into the MOTC building.

Holding shields, the police stood behind the barriers and tried to stop them. To prevent the protesters from advancing any further, the police eventually decided to place barbed wire at the entrance.

The union's chairman Chen Han-chin (陳漢卿) said at the rally that the ministry must resolve this matter immediately.

"Otherwise, there will be another match point on Jan. 1 next year," he said.

The mutual aid funds of all MOTC agencies were initiated by MOTC employees in 1962 as a way to help each other pay for wedding expenses as well as subsidies in retirement, children's education, medical operations and funerals.

Each employee voluntarily set aside a small amount from his or her monthly paycheck for the fund. The payment one acquired and the rate that employees paid into the system varied depending on the occasion.

For a wedding, for example, a worker paid NT$5 per month. When the employee got married, he would receive NT$5,000 from the fund.

The funds were managed by MOTC employees and were kept in a savings account in a bank without being invested elsewhere.

Last year, representatives from all of the administrative agencies under MOTC voted 20 to 3 to end the operations of the funds, as many predicted losses after some MOTC agencies became privatized or were placed under different ministries.

Meanwhile, the ministry also calculated that as of July last year, only about NT$359 million remained in the mutual aid funds. However, it found that the amount contributed by all current MOTC employees from all agencies was NT$3.58 billion.

The ministry also found that approximately NT$1.17 billion had been contributed to the TRA's portion of the MOTC funds since 1962. However, the administration had already overspent by NT$570 million.

Last August, the ministry decided to divide the remaining NT$359 million among the current MOTC employees.

Though the government has never been involved in the operation of the MOTC's mutual aid funds, the ministry asked the Executive Yuan last year to subsidize the fund by providing the shortfall of NT$3.22 billion.

The Executive Yuan, however, officially rejected the request in June last year on the grounds that the fund was raised privately by MOTC employees and it is inappropriate for the government to subsidize its operation.

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