Local governments should recruit more firefighters as soon as possible, as many are overworked and underpaid, the New Power Party (NPP) said yesterday.
The national firefighter-to-
population ratio is 1:1431, the party cited National Fire Agency statistics as showing.
A firefighter has to serve an average of 1,779 people in Kaohsiung, 1,774 people in Changhua County, 1,651 people in Taichung, 1,620 people in New Taipei City, 1,582 people in Tainan and 1,497 people in Hsinchu City, the data showed.
The ratios are higher than the goal set by the Ministry of the Interior to lower it to 1:1300 by 2023, a goal that is “very difficult to reach,” NPP caucus whip Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) said.
Firefighters in Taiwan worked more than 300 hours per month on average and were not properly paid for more than 500 hours of work every year, he said.
The cap on overtime pay for firefighters has only increased by NT$2,000 in the past 22 years, he said, adding that instead of receiving compensatory leave, they are given commendations, which are “meaningless.”
He called on the ministry to set a reasonable cap for work hours and compensation for overtime work.
NPP Changhua County councilor candidate Cheng Yu-yen (鄭宇焱) said that the number of firefighters in the county increased from 696 to 703 from 2019 to July last year, which was “too slow and too few.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Changhua County commissioner candidate Huang Shiou-fang (黃秀芳) has promised to increase personnel budgets for firefighters if elected, Chen said.
Changhua County Commissioner Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who is running for re-election, should draw up a detailed plan to increase the number of workers in the next four years, he added.
NPP Taichung city councilor candidate Wu Pei-yun (吳佩芸) said the city had the highest or second-highest number of fires in the past three years, questioning whether the rights of local firefighters are protected.
Although Taichung Fire Bureau Director-General Tseng Chin-tsai (曾進財) in June touted that the growth in the number of firefighters and improvement of the firefighter-to-population ratio in the city ranked first and second respectively among the six specialty municipalities, they are still insufficient, she said.
NPP Taipei city councilor candidates Chen Hui-min (陳志明) said that compared with New York, Tokyo and Singapore, where a firefighter has to serve 513, 731 and 925 people respectively, the ratio in Taipei — at 1:1356 — is not good enough.
He urged the city government to devise a concrete plan to increase the number of firefighters and create an occupational safety database, of which its occupational hazard data can be used to improve the safety of firefighters.
National Association for Firefighters’ Rights secretary Chen Yen-kai (陳彥凱) said that the official target of 1:1300 might not be enough to ease the burden on firefighters.
The National Fire Agency promised to implement the system of “one day on duty, one day off duty” by the end of the year, but it has not assisted local governments by proposing plans to increase staff, he said.
He called on mayoral and commissioner candidates for the Nov. 26 local elections to put forward concrete plans; otherwise, protecting firefighters’ health would just be an empty slogan.
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