Railway union plans to go on strike on Sept. 11

Taipei Times, Friday 15 August 2003, Page 1

The Railway Labor Union has planned a work stoppage for the Moon Festival, saying the government plans to privatize the railway administration.

A representative of the Taiwan Railway Labor Union puts his thumbprint in blood on the Chinese character for vow during an extraordinary general meeting yesterday at which union representatives voted to carry out a strike on the date of the Moon Festival. The Taiwan Railway Labor Union (台鐵工會) said yesterday it would go on strike during the Moon Festival, citing concerns over privatization.

Railway workers said the union would not hold any dialogue with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications before the Moon Festival, which falls on Sept. 11.

The union made the decision at an extraordinary general meeting yesterday.

Union Chairman Chang Wen-cheng (張文正) said that 12,000 of the some 14,000 Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) staff voted in support of taking leave on Sept. 11.

Noting that although a strike may sound radical, Chang said the decision is final and that the strike is the only way to make the government pay attention to the union’s demands.

The union is opposed to the TRA’s privatization, the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp’s business plan and to plans to ultimately dismantle the TRA, Chang said.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Tui (蔡堆) expressed his regret over the strike plan and said the ministry has drawn up alternative transportation plans for the Moon Festival. Tsai said he hopes the TRA staff will abort their strike plans.

As for the union’s concern about privatization, Tsai said that there will be no lay-offs or pay cuts and that the rights of TRA staff are protected, citing the examples of Chunghwa Telecom and Chunghwa Post, two formerly state-run businesses.

Tsai also said the ministry does not want to privatize the TRA and simply wants to change it into a corporation which can be run like a business.

According to Tsai, despite the contract already signed with the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp, the ministry will never give up the TRA and will help it to transform. He cited the NT$100 billion budget recently announced by the Cabinet which aims to speed up and facilitate the existing railway system.

Tsai said the ministry would welcome talks with the union ahead of the Moon Festival.

Meanwhile, TRA Deputy Director General Hsu Tah-wen (徐達文) said that railway services will be maintained at normal levels on, before and after Sept. 11.

Hsu also reminded TRA staff planning to strike on Sept. 11 that, according to regulations, any staff who take a leave without finding a substitute will be deemed absent from duty without leave.