Taipei--Taiwan Railway Union (TRU) said Sunday that its members' taking leave during the six-day Lunar New Year holiday from Jan. 27-Feb. 1 is a legal action and it called for the Ministry of Labor (MOL) to not side with the railway management.
On Feb. 3, Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA), the state-operated railway company, said about 370 of its employees did not show up for work as scheduled, which was considered "absent without official leave" and the absentees will be punished.
The union, which is mostly comprised of train station staff, said its members "took legal leave" based on a motion passed in its congress on Jan. 1 and it had notified the TRA, the MOL and Taipei City Department of Labor on Jan. 11.
The union said it also sent a petition on taking legal leave to those three governmental agencies on Jan. 23, showing its members had no intention to work during the six-day holiday, but the TRA refused to accept the petition.
Some 1,000 railway employees signed the petition asking for time off during the holiday.
The TRA management said the 370 employees who were "absent without official leave" did not show up for work for one to four days during the holiday, mostly two or three days.
Those who were absent for four days might be fired, while the others will be disciplined, said the TRA, noting it will hold a discipline committee meeting as soon as Feb. 16.
The union contended that employers need to get employees' agreements to have them work on national holidays, according to the Labor Standards Act and the TRA work rule. But the TRA did not obtain their consent.
From Jan. 27-29, the busiest time of year for traffic, TRA transported a total of 19.05 million passengers, an indication that the union members' work stoppage failed to disrupt passenger transportation, according to Cabinet Spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (???).
To cope with the walkout during Lunar New Year holiday, the TRA added temporary staff, including young men in alternative military service.
One of the union's proposals is to implement a new shift schedule that that will allow workers to have a full day off from 0:00-24:00 every week, instead of the current rest time of any consecutive 24 hours (such as 8 a.m. to following day's 8 a.m. and the like).
But the TRA said the current schedule has been practiced since 1989 in accordance with the labor law as explained by the MOL.
The union's protest was not only about overtime, but also about the welfare of railway workers, who have the right to have a holiday break just like everybody else, said the union.
The railway administration needs to hire at least 3,000 more people to improve their work conditions, but it continues to turn a blind eye on the issue of manpower, said the union.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel
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