Toll collectors rally near presidential residence

By Zane Kheir ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Over one hundred national highway workers from a self-help committee formed by former national freeway toll collectors gathered to protest in front of the presidential residence yesterday afternoon. Protesters refused to leave the site even after police attempted conduct flexible negotiations, which resulted in authorities forcibly removing some protesters from the site. According to information received from authorities on Saturday, members of the self-help committee planned to head to Taipei Railway Station yesterday to stage a protest by lying on the rail lines, thus suspending rail service. At around 10 a.m., approximately fifty members of the group gathered outside the station.

The station master, Chien Hsin-li (²�H��), made initial contact with the protesters to engage in negotiations. Chien claimed that he had taken precautions prior to the arrival of the protesters to ensure that trains would not be affected. Before protesters arrived at the station, more than 200 train staff and police officers formed a perimeter around the Taiwan rail and bullet train lines to stop any protesters from causing disruptions, claimed Chien. Due to the large presences of police, protesters later left the site to move the protest directly to the residence of the transportation minister. Protesters shifted toward the residence of Yeh Kuang-shih (���J��), head of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) to stage their protest. By 1 p.m., protesters had shifted to the front of President Ma Ying-jeou’s residence to stage a quiet sit-in. The protesters demanded that the president come out and meet the self-help group.

Police claimed that they warned protesters three separate times with placards before they started arresting people and removing them from the site. Police successively moved protesters toward Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

947 Former Toll Collectors Made Redundant Protesters were voicing their opposition to last year’s introduction of electronic highway toll meters. According to statistics from the highway authority, 947 toll collectors have lost their jobs since the introduction of the electronic meters. A total of 513 of the unemployed toll collectors have chosen to accept compensation money since being laid off. Other former toll collectors have found replacement jobs through relocation schemes, while others have still not found new jobs, according to government statistics.

The highway authority estimates that according to their job replacement program, there are still 2,536 jobs across the country that need to be filled. The authority claims that former toll collectors have approximately ten possible types jobs to choose from when seeking employment.

Members of the self-help group claim that the problem of unemployment among toll collectors has not been solved, and that their plan to fill 2,536 jobs has still not been initiated.