The Taiwan Railway Labor Union on Tuesday said it would go on strike during the Mid-Autumn Festival in September if the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) fails to address low wages and guarantee that there will be no pay cuts after a planned restructuring.
The TRA must guarantee its employees reasonable salaries and benefits, to which they are entitled, before it is transformed into a state-run corporation, the union said.
The union last month asked for a 50 percent wage hike for all TRA workers, after the Legislative Yuan in May passed a bill to transform the TRA into a state-run corporation by 2024.
The plan aims to address public calls to reform the debt-ridden agency following two deadly train crashes in 2018 and last year.
The union is negotiating with the TRA to finalize 16 subsidiary regulations in the bill detailing the treatment of employees.
It has also called on the agency to provide a breakdown of a planned NT$80 billion (US$2.68 billion) capital injection for the proposed corporation.
The TRA has not explained how the money would be used, the union said, adding that it is concerned that its members’ benefits would not be guaranteed.
The union has urged the TRA to stipulate in the subsidiary regulations that it would not reduce the salaries of its employees, regardless of whether the planned corporation’s responsibilities affect its profits.
Asked about the union’s statement on the sidelines of a news conference in Taipei, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said “the agency’s revenue is about NT$24 billion per year, while its personnel costs are approximately NT$16 billion per year. The entire revenue would be used to cover personnel costs if every employee was given a 50 percent raise. It would be impossible.”
A company can be profitable only if it can keep personnel expenses to under 50 percent of total operating costs, he said.
However, Wang said that he supports raising the salaries of entry-level workers at the TRA, which he said are excessively low.
“Any big salary increase should be discussed after the railway corporation generates profit, or the corporation would accumulate a huge amount of debt in its initial phase. This is not the purpose of corporatizing the railway agency,” he said.
TRA has not responded to the union’s statement.
The union went on a strike on May 1, although the labor action caused less disruption to the TRA’s services than had been expected.
Additional reporting by Shelley Shan
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