Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) employees yesterday protested at major train stations in Taipei and Kaohsiung, saying that they are being overworked, with the rallies timed to coincide with heavy passenger demand at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday.
About 200 members of Taiwan Railway Union launched their protest at the Taipei Railway Station at 11:30am, the same time 100 members began their rally at the Kaohsiung Railway Station.
The group in Taipei later moved over to the front of the Executive Yuan, where they posted “lucky” character signs and spring couples on a fence erected in front of the building, watched over by scores of police.
The protesters held up banners and slogans that said: “TRA violates workers’ rights, disregards passenger safety” and “Reform public transportation, give workers rights to have rest days.”
The protesters demanded that the state-run TRA follow recently promulgated amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).
They also said TRA’s management was forcing employees to work overtime during the Lunar New Year holiday, which would jeopardize passenger and transport safety.
“The railway’s management has violated employees’ labor rights. We have to work long hours and are not permitted to take days off as the law stipulates... We need to have proper rest to ensure safety standards for passengers are maintained,” Taiwan Railway Union executive Chou Kai (周鍇) said.
The union also accused the TRA of cutting the amount employees are paid for working overtime and refusing to hire more people to cope with the reduction in allowable work hours under the new five-day work week policy
More than 1,000 TRA employees last week signed a petition asking for time off for the long holiday, saying that it was their legal right to have time off from yesterday, Lunar New Year’s Eve, until the third day of the Lunar New Year on Monday.
Photo: Chen Wen-chan, Taipei Times.
With hundreds of union members taking leave en masse for the first time in the agency’s history, the company has added temporary staff, including young men doing their alternative military service.
Taipei Railway Station Master Huang Jung-hua (黃榮華) met with the protesters at the station, and he assured the public that train safety was not being jeopardized.
“We normally have 56 staff working each shift at the Taipei Railway Station. We had six workers taking today off, making it 50 people on the current shift,” Huang said. “There are three work shifts a day, with total of about 150 staff at work. So for the day, we might have a total of 20 people taking the day off. We can manage under this situation, and the rights of passengers to take the train home [for the holidays] will not be affected.”
The TRA has a pool of backup employees who can be called upon to provide extra support during the holiday, so most trains will run on schedule, although there might be minor delays, he said .
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