Dozens of laid-off freeway toll collectors, accompanied by rights activists, demonstrated outside the Far Eastern Department Store in Taipei yesterday, protesting against Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co’s (FETC) treatment of former toll collectors, despite its contractual agreement that it would help all the laid-off workers find new jobs.
Holding placards, the demonstrators urged the government and the FETC to help find jobs for the laid-off toll collectors, who number about 900, as the FETC had promised before it won the bid to run the electronic toll collection (ETC) system.
“We are here because we would like to let customers shopping at the department store know about the malicious things that Far Eastern Group — which runs both the department store and the FETC — is doing,” former toll collectors’ self-help organization spokeswoman Wu Ching-ju (吳靜如) said through a loudspeaker. “Most of these former toll collectors have worked for 10 or 20 years or more, yet they became unemployed overnight, as the government sold the nation’s freeways to FETC.”
Wu said that while many people spent Mother’s Day shopping as Far Eastern Department Store was holding a Mother’s Day sale, many former toll collectors who are mothers could only bring their children with them to the street to fight for their rights.
Lin Su-chen (林素珍), a former toll collector and a single mother of two children who has been unemployed for more than five months since the collectors were replaced by the automated electronic system at the end of last year, came all the way from her home in Jiaosi Township (礁溪), Yilan County, to join the protest.
“I worked as a toll collector for more than 16 years, and have been unemployed since the beginning of the year, despite FETC’s promise to help us find jobs,” Lin said. “Life has been difficult for us, especially because I am a single mother with two children.”
Lin said that FETC did introduce some jobs to her and to other laid-off toll collectors, “but most of the jobs were professional positions, such as computer engineers or electricians. How can we do those jobs when we don’t have any knowledge about them?”
The former toll collectors also walked into the store to hand out flyers to customers and employees.
Most people just quietly took the flyers, while a few reacted positively.
“I don’t feel disturbed by what they are doing,” a woman shopping in the store said. “I could feel their pain, and I would give them my support.”
After leaving from the department store, they went on to Ximending District (西門町) and continued to hand out flyers and speak to the public, hoping to raise awareness and support for their campaign.