The National Association for Firefighters’ Rights (NAFR) yesterday held a protest on Ketagelan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei to urge the government to allow firefighters to form unions in light of the deaths of firefighters in a fire on Friday at Pingtung Technology Industrial Park.
The fire killed seven people, including four firefighters, with more than 90 injured and three missing as of 4:30pm yesterday.
Pointing to a banner at the protest that listed the names of 39 firefighters who have died in the line of duty over the past decade, association member Huang Sheng (黃升) said the association has repeatedly demanded that the government institute systemic reforms over the past decade to prevent further incidents.
Photo: Screen grab from the association’s Facebook page
“Our cries and urges have only been met with more firefighters’ deaths,” he said.
The association is demanding that the government allow firefighters to form unions, for the Occupational Safety and Health Act (職業安全衛生法) to apply to firefighters, for the Public Servant Health and Safety Act (公務人員安全衛生辦法) to include firefighter rights groups in decision-making, and for the central government to step up subsidies to local governments and bolster firefighting capabilities.
Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said at the Legislative Yuan that the government has heard the association’s demands and would investigate the issue.
However, the demand to allow firefighters to form unions is complicated, as the government would also have to look into allowing other groups — teachers, police and others — to form unions, he said.
Chen Shih-kai (陳世凱), spokesman for Vice President William Lai’s (賴清德) presidential campaign office, said that regardless of what measures are enacted to address the issue, the government would continue to reach out to firefighters’ rights groups to achieve a consensus.
Taiwan People’s Party presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) pledged on Facebook that if elected, he would fully support firefighters forming a union and for the Occupational Safety and Health Act to fully apply to firefighters.
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate, said that legislation must be able to protect police and firefighters and allow them to work knowing their families would be taken care of in the event something happens.
Independent candidate Terry Gou (郭台銘) said he supported government action, such as establishing firefighter schools, to help train people and bolster the ranks of firefighters across the nation, as they have long faced personnel shortages.
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