Former freeway toll collectors yesterday hurled more than 200 pairs of shoes over the walls of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) residential compound in Taipei as they staged a sit-down demanding appropriate compensation for the loss of their jobs.
About 1,000 toll collectors were left jobless when the nation switched to a distance-based electronic toll collection system in January.
The protest at Chunghsing Apartment (中興寓所) was the latest in a prolonged campaign that has seen demonstrations held at various government agencies across the capital and on freeways.
Although the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Wednesday last week presented the former toll collectors with an employment plan featuring more than 2,500 job opportunities, the laid-off workers have expressed skepticism over the measure, saying that it fails to address their other key demands.
In addition to being given assistance with attaining new jobs, the workers said they should be paid full severance packages in accordance with their length of service — instead of a fixed seven-month package — and that the government should provide compensation for their labor insurance pensions.
Regarding the latest raft of job openings offered by the ministry — mostly public-sector jobs and transportation company positions — the laid-off toll collectors said the ministry should clarify the details of and qualifications for the openings, adding that similar employment programs it has offered previously have yielded negative results.
Members of the Former Toll Collectors Self-Help Organization said the ministry should have discussed the plan with the laid-off workers instead of devising it unilaterally, adding that Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) has repeatedly boycotted negotiations with a committee set up to discuss the issue.
Halfway through the sit-down, the protesters started throwing shoes from backpacks and bags that had their demands for full severance packages and pensions inscribed on the soles.
Although security personnel inside the presidential compound attempted to intercept the flying shoes with a large net, piles of footwear arched over it and landed on the property.
Scuffles broke out when police officers started to clear the former tollway collectors and their supporters from the area, shipping them off by the busload.
The demonstration followed another protest earlier in the day in another part of the city, which saw participants gather outside Yeh’s residence, to the displeasure of some local residents.
“We have attempted to speak with the minister many times during our protests in front of the ministry building, but he has refused to speak with us,” organization president Sun Hsiu-luan (孫秀鑾) told an angry resident who said that the demonstrators were disturbing the neighborhood.
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