Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Minister agrees to meet group for ex-toll collectors

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Protesters for former freeway toll collectors yesterday demand that Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuan-shih come out and address their concerns as they demonstrate outside a tourism event Yeh was attending in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

The group lobbying for former toll fee collectors ended their six-day protest against the Ministry of Transportation and Communications yesterday after Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) promised to meet with the group’s representatives before June 30.

The date is the official deadline by which Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co, the contractor administering the electronic toll collection system, has been tasked to find jobs for all remaining former toll collectors.

The protest started with a camp-out at the ministry building on Sunday last week and has included a “Blue Light Parade” to win public support, as well as protests outside the Control Yuan, Executive Yuan and at a Far Eastern retail store.

However, the minister did not initially engage with the group, and their anger mounted.

After failing to storm the ministry building, they decided on Thursday to seek out Yeh at his apartment, but to no avail.

Yesterday morning, they headed to the Regent Taipei Hotel, where Yeh was scheduled to attend a signing for a tourism event titled “Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.”

Though members managed to obstruct part of the hotel’s main entrance and the underground parking entrance, they failed again to meet Yeh in person.

After condemning Yeh as “someone having time to party, but having no time to meet with the former employees,” they went on to protest at the National Sun Yat-Sen Freeway yesterday afternoon.

About 500 protesters sat on the sidelines of a southbound entrance ramp at the Linkou (林口) Interchange after alighting from tour buses and taxis.

The protesters accused the government of not taking the seniority of the toll fee collectors into consideration when giving out severance payments.

They said their unprecedented move of occupying the freeway in protest was because of this unfair treatment.

Police set up a cordon separating the traffic and protesters, and held up signs stating that the actions of the protesters were illegal.

Because of the protest, vehicles backed up 2km or 3km on the southbound lanes.

The protest ended at about 4pm, after the National Freeway Bureau director-general Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯) met with the protesters and made three specific commitments.

He said that Yeh had agreed to meet with group members before the end of the month, but he would not meet with any labor-rights activists.

“We see freeway toll fee collectors as members of our family and have done everything we can to help them find jobs,” Chen said.

Should Far Eastern fail to fulfill its obligation in offering the former collectors comparable salaries, Chen said that the bureau would pay the difference to the employees first and then deduct this from the government’s service payment to Far Eastern.

The contractor will also face a daily penalty of NT$500,000 if its fails to improve the situation.

The bureau said it would also set up a task force to handle complaints should toll collectors be treated unfairly in their new jobs. Officers from the Ministry of Labor are also to provide assistance.

Based on its contract with the bureau, Far Eastern is obligated to offer job openings that require little or no education or previous experience to the 456 former toll fee collectors who have indicated that they want to be re-employed by Far Eastern or its other affiliated agencies.

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