The Taiwan Motor Transport Company Union yesterday vowed to sue the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) for negligence if it allows bus companies to overwork their drivers.
During a protest outside the ministry yesterday morning, the union said the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) had made a unilateral decision on drivers’ work schedules during major national holidays.
“We agreed to a negotiation on Friday on the issue of flexible work schedule, but we did not expect the agency to unilaterally issue a statement after the meeting claiming that the issue had been thoroughly discussed and consent secured from bus operators and drivers,” the union said.
It wanted one more meeting with government officials and bus operators, it said.
The protest followed the DGH’s announcement over the weekend that it had reached an agreement with bus operators to allow public bus services to be added to the job categories to which the Labor Standards Act’s (勞動基準法) “flexible work schedule” applies.
Under the act, workers in these categories can work six consecutive days and then have one day off.
Under the new agreement, bus drivers would be allowed to work nine days in a row during major national holidays and then take one day off, but could work 10 days in a row before having a day off only in an extenuating circumstance, the DGH said.
The deal must still be approved by the ministry before it can be implemented.
If it is approved, bus firms would be able to start arranging their work schedules for the Lunar New Year holiday next year.
There have been fatal accidents in the past two years caused by overworked drivers, the union said, citing an April 23 incident when a truck driver struck and killed two highway police officers and another truck driver in Tainan and a tour bus accident on the Formosa Freeway (Freeway No. 3) on Feb. 13 last year that killed 33 tourists and injured 11.
“Does the ministry still want to allow bus operators to adopt a flexible work schedule for bus drivers, knowing that drivers are already working under adverse conditions? Have ministry officials forgotten about these fatal accidents and want more fatigued drivers on the roads?” union board member Fan Kuang-ming (范光明) said.
Huang Chia-teng (黃家騰), another board member, said bus companies rarely complied completely with the work schedule requirement in the Labor Standards Act.
“They are fined NT$9,000 to NT$50,000 at most if they are caught contravening labor regulations. They know they can earn the money back by offering more bus services. Taoyuan Bus Co, for example, has been fined multiple times in the past few years, but that has not stopped it from engaging in illegal labor practices,” Huang said.
“What they want is our endorsement for work schedule change so they can start asking drivers to work non-stop for nine days during the next Lunar New Year holiday,” he said.
DGH Transportation Division head Liu Yu-lin (劉育麟) said the proposed flexible work schedule would only be used during the Lunar New Year holiday, not on long weekends, for religious pilgrimages or other significant events.
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