More than 100 train conductors at the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) have threatened to go on strike during the 228 holiday to protest the agency’s decision to hire assistant train conductors.
The agency announced this week that it would hire 60 assistants this year. Of those positions, 20 are to be reserved for job applicants who are Aborigines. All the assistants could qualify to become full-time train conductors once they are trained and pass their evaluations, the TRA said.
However, the announcement has angered train conductors, who said that the proposed assistants would be insufficiently professional to work as conductors and could potentially compromise train safety.
TRA chief secretary Lu Chieh-shen (鹿潔身) said the administration decided to recruit assistants because about 150 train conductors are scheduled to retire over the next two years.
Meanwhile, the new train coaches the TRA has ordered are scheduled to arrive next year, which will result in a further shortage of conductors.
Though the government has held national examinations over the past few years to recruit new personnel, Lu said that the railway service still faced a shortfall in conductors.
To be hired as assistant train conductors, Lu said applicants would have to pass both written and physical tests, as well as an evaluation conducted by the Aviation Medical Center.
After passing all the necessary evaluations, applicants would then receive two years training before being allowed to work as conductors, Lu said.
The TRA currently needs to use two conductors on some of its cargo trains because there are insufficient assistants to help them watch the signals.
If there were more assistants, then more train conductors could work on passenger trains, he said.
“The association thinks they [the assistants] are going to be hired to work as conductors right away, which is not true,” Lu said, adding that the TRA would continue to talk to with the association.