Rail union hands petition to Cabinet

By Lee Hsin-fang and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Sep 10, 2016 - Page 3

A union of railway workers that has been threatening to go on strike during next week’s Mid-Autumn Festival if its demands are not met yesterday held a protest outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei.

As part of ongoing protests over low staff numbers, long working hours and forced overtime, members of the Taiwan Railway Union yesterday afternoon presented a petition signed by 1,800 of its members to the Executive Yuan.

The petition demanded that the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) increase its overtime pay and provide a higher allowance for workers forced to work overnight away from home.

The Executive Yuan sent a representative to negotiate with the union regarding their demands.

Despite heavy rain yesterday afternoon, protesters stood outside the Executive Yuan for hours chanting slogans such as: “Staff must be increased, days off promised must be substantiated” and: “Pay overtime in accordance with the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).”

Union member Chou Kai (周鍇) said that the TRA had failed to give a straight answer to their demands at a news conference on Tuesday and demanded that staff work overtime during the Mid-Autumn Festival in exchange for overtime pay.

“It is against the Labor Standards Act to force people to work overtime,” Chou said.

The TRA always demands that its employees work during public holidays, paying overtime for those days, but not allowing workers to choose whether or not to work, he said.

The TRA does not provide makeup rest days following the holidays, he added.

“Many people have not been home on Lunar New Year’s Eve since joining the TRA. Their families lament that they do not see their children grow up — that they become strangers,” Chou said.

“These workers are not necessarily planning to take the Mid-Autumn Festival off. That would need to be worked out with related agencies. What we feel at the moment is that overtime pay and overnight allowances should first be increased so that workers feel reasonable progress is being made,” union chairman Wang Jieh (王傑) said.

He added that once staff numbers are brought up to a sufficient level, the TRA could begin scheduling workers in a more reasonable manner, giving them the appropriate days off.