The Taiwan Railway Labor Union on Wednesday said it might hold a protest and go on strike next month if the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) presents its proposal to transform itself into a state-run corporation to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications without first reaching an agreement with the union.
After a derailment of a Taroko Express train in Hualien County on April 2 last year killed 49 people, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), who took office on April 20, vowed to transform the agency into a state-run corporation within three years.
Wang has since last month met with union representatives, trying to convince them that the transformation would solve the railway operator’s problems.
However, union members opposed the plan, saying that it was not the reform they had expected.
The agency has over the past decades accumulated more than NT$400 billion (US$14.376 million) of debt, and the ministry has proposed that earnings after tax would be used to pay off the debt, the union said in an online statement.
“How can TRA employees get better pay and benefits under such circumstances? Once the agency becomes a corporation, employees would also have to give up their qualifications as government workers. An employee in a firm that makes no profit could be laid off at any time,” it said.
Union chairman Chen Shih-chieh (陳世杰) said the union is not against reforming the agency, but questioned whether the planned railway corporation would mean a true reform and increase operational safety.
“We urge the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to resolve the debt and other issues first, and reach an agreement with the union before sending statutes governing the establishment of a railway corporation to the Legislative Yuan. Otherwise, we cannot accept the proposal,” he said.
The union said it had originally planned to organize a protest on Feb. 23, to which 3,748 members had signed up.
However, the rally would be postponed, as COVID-19 regulations limit crowd sizes, it said.
The ministry said that the state-run corporation would keep the TRA’s employees
Chunghwa Post Co, Taiwan International Ports Corp and Taoyuan International Airport Corp used to be government agencies, and none of them have laid off significant numbers of workers since the transformations, the ministry said.
TRA employees would not be paid less in the state-run railway corporation and might get 4.4 months of salary as performance-based bonuses, even if the company does not post profits, it said.
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