Ex-toll collectors storm Taiwan's transport ministry

TAIPEI - Around 200 former freeway toll collectors yesterday rushed into the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) Headquarters and demanded that the government find better jobs for them.

The MOTC launched a new electronic freeway toll collection system at the end of last year, which caused over 940 freeway toll collectors to lose their jobs. The Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co. (FETC), the company that is in charge of the new system, promised to place all the toll collectors in new jobs.

The self-help organisation of the former toll collectors showed up in front of MOTC Headquarters yesterday to negotiate with the ministry regarding their job rights, but the meeting room could not fit all the members of the self-help organisation, which resulted in physical conflict between them and the police.

The police could not stop all the protesters from rushing into the MOTC hall, and the nearly 200 protestors occupied the first floor of the hall, saying that the MOTC intentionally padded the FETC's pockets.

The protesters also demanded that the head of the MOTC, Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時), talk to them directly and solve this problem because they cannot trust the FETC anymore.

According to the MOTC, more than 400 among the 940 former freeway toll collectors who lost their jobs agreed to allow the FETC to find them new jobs, and so far, 194 former freeway toll collectors have found new positions through the FETC.

However, self-help organisation members said that during the process of looking for jobs through the FETC, FETC employees not only treated the former toll collectors badly but also humiliated them as well.

Many senior former freeway toll collectors wept at the MOTC hall, saying that after serving the country for most of their lives, they cannot believe that they would be treated like this.

MOTC Promises to Assist

Deputy chief of the National Freeway Bureau Wu Mu-fu (吳木富) and Kuomintang lawmaker Chen Shei-saint (陳學聖) yesterday responded to the appeals of the self-help organisation on the MOTC's behalf.

Wu said that as long as the organisation's appeals do not violate any regulations, the bureau will definitely help the former freeway toll collectors receive their benefits.

According to Wu, for anyone to be hired as an employee of the government, he or she has to go through a public examination. Therefore, the MOTC would have to look into the possibility of the former toll workers being directly hired by the government, circumventing the testing process.