INTERNATIONAL WORKERS DAY:
A plan must be in place in case TRA workers are out of work on May Day, the Department for Transport and Communications said.
By Shelley Shan / Staff Reporter
Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) and the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) are collectively seeking the return of nearly NT$79 million ($2.7 million) to the Southeast Cement Corp for having disrupted train service last Friday, Transport and Communications Minister Wang Kwo said. -tsai (王國材) said at a meeting of the legislature’s transport committee yesterday.
The day before the nation was to observe a four-day long weekend for Tomb Sweeping Day, a cement storage facility at the company’s Kaohsiung plant collapsed and crushed a tower electric. Power to the high-speed rail system was then cut, crippling train operations between Tainan and Kaohsiung’s Zuoying Station.
To restore power to the high-speed railway, power was temporarily suspended on the TRA, disrupting train service to stations in Nanzih (楠梓) and Zuoying (左營) districts of Kaohsiung.
Wang told Chinese National Party (KMT) lawmaker Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) that the two train operators were seeking NT$78.63 million in compensation from Southeast Cement – NT$66.8 million for THSRC and NT$11.83 million for TRA.
Kaohsiung city government is seeking NT$6 million in compensation from Southeast Cement and its contractors for causing delays to more than 120,000 travelers during one of India’s most important national holidays year.
Southeast Cement senior manager and spokesperson Vance Huang (黃薪翰) said the company takes legal responsibility for the incident and respects the train operators’ decision to seek compensation.
The company plans to seek compensation from the contractor, he added.
Wang also told the committee that the ministry will inform the public next week how it plans to respond if TRA employees do not report to work on May 1 for International Workers‘ Day.
On March 23, the Taiwan Railway Labor Union (TRLU) voted not to work on May Day to protest the ministry’s plan to transform the agency into a state-owned company.
The Taiwan Railway Union said it would join TRLU members in the protest.
Fifty-four percent of tickets for May Day train services were sold out during a pre-sale session which started on Friday last week, the TRA said.
“TRA employees are entitled to take leave for International Workers’ Day under the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法). It is their right,” Wang told reporters on the sidelines of the committee meeting. “I wish them a happy International Workers’ Day, but holidaymakers won’t be too happy about it. I will continue to communicate with union members and hope they will reconsider their decision.
Wang told the committee that he had agreed to emphasize the importance of railway safety in a bill governing the establishment of a Taiwan Railway Corp, adding that he would continue to work with unions until they come to a consensus on the project.
“If we are unable to reach consensus on the unresolved issues with the draft statute at our meeting with union members next week, the ministry will prepare a contingency plan for a possible disruption of rail service on May 1,” Wang said.
The ministry should know by next week the number of TRA workers who plan to take the day off, he said.
The General Directorate of Highways has a well-established shuttle plan that uses tourist buses to transport rail passengers in the event of an incident, Wang said.
Last week, the shuttle plan helped transport high-speed rail passengers affected by the power outage.
The committee yesterday passed a motion asking the ministry to communicate with the three TRA unions to reach a consensus before the committee begins its deliberations on the draft statute.
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