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Rail staff ‘will not work extra holiday shifts’

The petition describes a “worsening work environment” that has not been addressed and has caused physical fatigue that requires employees to exercise their right to take leave to ensure suitable rest for their mental and physical health.

Conductors from the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA, 台鐵) have been at odds with the Transportation Ministry over 67 shifts added for the Mid-Autumn Festival, which they say were added without consideration for their welfare and safety.

The action would become effective at midnight Sept. 6.

Employees representing the 4,000 transportation workers are also finalizing moves to form an official union and say they will be coordinating to listen to the voices of rank-and-file employees in order to better communicate their demands to railway management officials.

They said that TRA’s promise to reduce freight transport services during the period had no bearing on their holiday workload, which includes extensive passenger train operations as people travel across the island for family gatherings.

Representatives of TRA conductors said that current schedules not only give them almost no time to rest but also no chance to celebrate the festival with their own families.

Last Wednesday, TRA claimed to have reached a consensus to operate an additional 203 trips from Sept. 14 to 19.

Conductors countered that the so-called consensus had been reached without their consent. They said that management was bent on finalizing the holiday train schedule without addressing shortages of manpower as well as holiday compensation.

Conductors have argued that the state-owned railway needs to hire at least 270 conductors to meet existing demand. They also demanded that TRA cut 200 trips so that employees could enjoy the same rights as other workers.

TRA Director Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) had promised to increase engineering staff numbers by 1,318 in stages over five years. In a recent open letter to railway employees, Chou urged employees to work during the holiday season in order to gain public support that would ensure future improvements to working conditions and wages.

Chou, who had been tapped to become head of the Tourism Bureau (觀光局), may not see a transfer to the new post until the current impasse is resolved.

Employees organizing the new union have urged TRA not to threaten or suppress their leadership, citing constitutional guarantees of their freedom to organize