Hundreds of people took to the streets in Taipei yesterday to vent their anger toward the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC), calling on the government to rescind its contract with the company, following controversies caused by the firm’s electronic toll collection system (ETC), including system errors and its handling of former toll collectors.
Holding banners that read: “FETC is breaking its promises,” “I don’t want to install the eTag, I can still get on the freeway” and “I want my right to work,” hundreds of people, including former toll collectors, opponents to the ETC, as well as other laid-off workers, rallied outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, followed by a march to Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, where another demonstration was held.
Meanwhile, a group of drivers who are also opposed to the ETC and have refused to install the system’s eTag — a device attached to a car so the ETC system can calculate the toll — protested outside the FETC headquarters in Taipei, later joining the demonstration on Ketagalan Boulevard.
“I would like human toll collectors to return to do the job, because the ETC system is making too many toll miscalculations, and you have to go through a very complicated process to get your money refunded,” a driver surnamed Lee (李) said.
However, as most tollbooths have already been torn down, Lee said that he would accept the alternative of having more than two toll collection companies in the business.
“It’s not right that FETC has a monopoly over the business. I think it’s making so many mistakes because there’s no competition,” he added.
Huang Chih-hsien (黃智賢), a writer, questioned the legality of a private firm operating the toll collection system.
“The law stipulates that all public facilities — including transportation facilities — must be run by the government. So how could the government authorize a private firm to collect tolls from drivers?” Huang asked.
“What the FETC gets is not only the right to collect tolls on the freeway, but also access to private information about drivers and their vehicles,” he added.
In addition to criticism on the system operated by FETC, former toll collectors also took part in the demonstration to express their discontent with the company, accusing it of failing to honor its promise to help them find new jobs.
More than 900 former toll collectors have lost their jobs, however, only a few were able to find new jobs.
“All the FETC did was put us on to a job hunt Web site, making us compete with young jobseekers, most of us are in middle or old ages already. The company did not give us any extra assistance,” a former toll collector surnamed Lin (林) said.
“If the FETC would not help us find a job as it promised, the government should end its contract with the company,” he added.
Lin recounted that a former toll collector living in Greater Tainan was referred to a job at a fast food restaurant in Hualien, and when she refused to take it, the FETC accused her of being “not hardworking.”
Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮), spokeswoman for the National Alliance for Workers of Closed-Off Factories, said workers in the organization have come to give their support to former toll collectors, as they are all in the same boat.