More than 12,000 TRA workers opt for a day off on Labor Day

Taipei, April 16 (CNA) More than 12,000 employees of the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA), including 90 percent of its drivers, have vowed not to work on May Day to protest the government’s proposed transform the transport agency into a company, according to TRA on Saturday.

Based on work schedules, 1,200 TRA drivers are expected to work on Labor Day, which falls on a Monday this year, making the weekend a three-day holiday, but fewer than 40 of them could actually show up for work, said the TRA, which operates Taiwan’s only island-wide rail network.

As a result, all train services on Eastern lines that day will be canceled and Western lines will see only a few commuter train operations, the TRA said.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC), which oversees the TRA, said on Saturday that contingency plans to provide passengers with alternative transport amid expected disruption and to refund tickets for TRA passengers will be announced on next week.

The Taiwan Railways Union (TRLU) launched an industrial action on Friday in which it demanded its members take a day off on Labor Day, as they are entitled to, rather than following their work schedule, to force the government to withdraw from the Legislative Assembly a bill to transform the TRA into a corporation.

The union was not opposed to the ministry’s plan to corporatize the TRA, but the bill sent back to the legislature for deliberation was introduced without proper consultation with the TRA workers, the TRLU chairman said, Chen Shih-chieh (陳世杰).

Chen said the union insisted that the bill be first withdrawn from the legislature and replaced with a new version after the ministry and the union held discussions and reached consensus.

Transportation and Communications Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) called a meeting with leaders of TRLU and the National Train Drivers Union on Friday to try to iron out their differences over the issue, but talks broke down in less than an hour.

The bill was approved by Cabinet in early March, as part of the government’s efforts to reform the outdated and debt-ridden TRA, amid public calls for reform of the agency following two fatal train crashes in 2018 and 2021.

One of the main disagreements between the two parties is how to repay the debts of the TRA after its incorporation.

By the end of last year, the TRA had racked up NT$420.801 billion ($14.45 billion) in debt, according to its chief executive Du Wei (杜微).

In a statement responding to the bill released by TRLU in March, the union argued that all TRA debt should be managed by the government, instead of the agency taking on its debt, as the bill proposes. of law.

TRLU also argued in the statement that the bill did not provide any guarantees for the salaries, promotions or pensions of TRA employees.

Speaking to reporters after Friday’s meeting, Wang said he was ready to discuss issues related to wages, benefits and safety management, but union leaders demanded the bill be recalled before talks could begin.

Wang said he refused to withdraw the bill and would continue efforts for TRA reform, even if he encountered more difficulties than expected.

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