About 500 former freeway toll fee collectors yesterday protested outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei, demanding that the ministry reopen negotiations with them.
Following the introduction of the electronic “pay as you go” system this year, in which freeway drivers are charged based on the distance traveled rather than by the number of toll booths passed, toll collectors found themselves out of jobs.
In the contract between Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC) and the National Freeway Bureau, the contractor promised the government that it would help the collectors find new jobs.
Freeway Toll Collector Self-Help Association president Lin Bi-huang (林碧煌) said he was encouraged by the workers of closed factories winning their court battle against the Ministry of Labor.
He questioned the validity of the labor agreement, saying that the negotiators were not equipped with the full information during their talks with the bureau.
Lin added that the collectors were promised that they would be offered jobs that are close to their homes. However, some of them found out, for example, that they would need to leave their families in the south to work in the north, which was unacceptable, Lin said.
The company also exaggerated its success in helping collectors find suitable jobs, Lin said.
“It [the contractor] said that there were two job openings for cashiers at MOS Burger. In fact, between 70 and 80 people applied for the positions,” he said.
Some of the toll collectors said that the company even asked female collectors if they would be interested in becoming truck drivers or handling fish at supermarkets.
Bureau Chief Secretary Cheng Chorng-been (鄭崇賓), who accepted the petition from the protesters, said the labor agreement is legally effective and has been submitted to the Labor Affairs Department of New Taipei City for reference.
“The negotiation could only be reopened if the labor agreement, through legal procedures, was deemed ineffective,” Cheng said.
FETC spokesperson Rachel Chen (陳世莉) said the company has found 1,000 job openings within the Far Eastern Group for the toll collectors, which is twice the number of jobs needed.
As of yesterday, 309 collectors have been set up with interviews, in which 174 found jobs, she said.
Most of the jobs are in Greater Tainan, Miaoli, Changhua, Yunlin, Pintung, Chiayi and Yilan.
Among the job openings, about 20 percent do not require specific educational requirements, while about 30 percent require high-school education or less. Nearly two-thirds do not require previous related job experience.