Sat, Feb 18, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Probe finds Iris Travel in violation of labor act

MISSING RECORDS:Iris Travel is to be fined for failing to grant rest days and provide records. Contract drivers protested the suspension of their operating licenses

By Sean Lin, Cheng Wei-chi, Jake Chung and William Hetheri  /  Staff reporters, with staff writers

National Joint Association of Tourist Buses chairman Alex Lu, left, is joined by Iris Travel Service Co founder and owner Chou Pi-tsang, center, and co-owner Chou Chi-hung at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

The Taipei Labor Inspection Office yesterday released the results of its investigation into Monday’s deadly bus crash on the Chiang Wei-shui Memorial Freeway (Freeway No. 5), tying travel agency Iris Travel Service Co to four violations of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

The office pieced together driver Kang Yu-hsun’s (康育薰) attendance records, part of which were missing, and determined that he had worked for at least 12 consecutive days prior to the accident, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 9, office director Chiang Ming-chih (江明志) said.

Kang’s shift constituted a breach of Article 36 of the act, which states that employers must grant workers at least one day off per week, Chiang said, adding that the travel agency faces a fine of between NT$20,000 and NT$1 million (US$645 and US$32,258) for violating the rule.

Kang’s employee identification card, salary records and attendance records were also missing — infractions under Article 7, 23-2 and 30 of the act respectively — Chiang said.

Iris Travel is to be fined between NT$20,000 and NT$300,000 for failing to provide Kang’s identification card and salary records, and between NT$90,000 and NT$450,000 for not having his attendance records, he said.

The firm initially showed a lease it signed with Taoyuan-based Yeow Lih Transportation, giving the impression that Kang is Yeow Lih’s employee in an apparent attempt to shift responsibility, he said.

However, after speaking with Yeow Lih, labor inspection personnel found that it had signed a deal to allow its drivers and buses, including Kang and the crashed bus, to join the carrier’s bus fleet, which would allow its drivers to earn more commission per tour, he said.

Prosecutors handling the case seized a camera from the crashed bus and expect its footage to reveal whether Kang’s shift at the time of the incident had lasted more than 12 hours as sources claim, he said.

Separately yesterday, Iris Travel, Yeow Lih, the National Joint Association of Tourist Buses and the Travel Agent Association held a joint press conference regarding the crash that claimed 33 lives.

After offering an apology, Iris Travel founder Chou Pi-tsang (周比蒼) said many drivers opted to work instead of taking days off, saying: “Men die for wealth, and birds for food.”

In response to queries that Kang had worked 14 consecutive days, Chou did not give a direct answer, but said double pay was given to employees who worked over the Lunar New Year period from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1.

The long work hours are not connected with the crash, Chou added.

Meanwhile, contract drivers working with Yeow Lih yesterday protested in front of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications building in Taipei over its suspension of operating licenses following Monday’s accident.

The drivers criticized the government for finding them guilty by association and protested the loss of their livelihood.

Drivers Chiu Chien-tseng (邱建增) and Tsao Su-ying (曹蘇英), both of whom own and operate tour buses, said they lack the capital needed to start their own businesses, so they purchased buses to work as contractors in line with government regulations.

The loss of this option will leave them unable to support their families, they said, adding that they have monthly loan payments of about NT$44,000, while some others have to pay up to NT$80,000 for their bus loans.

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