Dozens of garbage collectors yesterday pressed the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for safer working conditions, including ending the dangerous practice of having workers stand on the back of garbage trucks while on collection rounds.
The protest came on the heels of Premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) announcement on Tuesday that the EPA would allocate NT$6 billion (US$191.1 million) to purchase new uniforms for garbage collectors, install new shower facilities and washing machines at their workplaces, and subsidize local municipalities to replace old garbage trucks with new ones.
Su made the announcement before EPA officials were to meet with waste collectors at Taipei’s Grand Hotel.
Photo: Liu Li-jen, Taipei Times
However, several representatives of waste collectors’ unions protesting outside the EPA’s office in Taipei said that the government did not understand their “real, urgent needs.”
Since the government in 2002 started promoting a “no littering” policy, workers are required to collect garbage door-to-door along more than 3,100 routes nationwide, which can be extremely dangerous, as some of them have to stand on the back of the moving vehicles, Federation of Environmental Workers’ Unions chairman Su Chia-yuan (蘇家源) said.
In August last year, Su led a group of workers to demand that the EPA improve work safety regulations after a worker died after falling from a garbage truck in Chiayi County.
Eighty-four collectors have died at work over the past 17 years, about five deaths per year, he said.
The EPA and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications even tried to legalize the perilous practice by amending the Road Traffic Security Rules (道路交通安全規則), Taipei Environmental Workers’ Union director Chiang Wan-chin (蔣萬金) said.
The amendments announced by the ministry on Tuesday last week included one stipulating that EPA waste trucks can only take one extra worker on board in addition to the driver.
After the proposed article sparked complaints, the EPA on Sunday said it would ask the ministry to withdraw it.
However, the agency is maintaining its policy of collecting garbage at fixed venues and time, Department of Waste Management Director-General Lai Ying-ying (賴瑩瑩) told protesters during a meeting yesterday.
The policy has been implemented in Taipei for years, and starting this year, the EPA is subsidizing eight other areas — New Taipei City, Tainan, Chiayi city and county, and Changhua, Yunlin, Miaoli and Pingtung counties — to carry out the practice, Lai said.
Since their protest last year, the agency has held regular meetings with workers once every three months, she said, adding that their safety is its priority.
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