Calls for national police and firefighters’ union emerge amid pingtung blaze tragedy

In the wake of the tragic fire at Pingtung Technology Industrial Park, which claimed seven lives, including four firefighters, and left more than 90 injured with three still missing, the National Association for Firefighters’ Rights (NAFR) staged a protest on Ketagelan Boulevard outside the Presidential Building in Taipei. Their primary demand is for the government to grant firefighters the right to form unions.

During the protest, a banner bearing the names of 39 firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty over the past decade served as a poignant reminder of the dangers they face. Huang Sheng, a member of the association, lamented that their decade-long calls for systemic reforms to prevent such incidents have gone unanswered, resulting in further firefighter fatalities.

The NAFR’s demands encompass several key points, including granting firefighters the right to form unions, extending the coverage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to firefighters, involving firefighter rights groups in decision-making under the Public Servant Health and Safety Act, and increasing central government subsidies to local authorities to enhance firefighting capabilities.

Premier Chen Chien-jen acknowledged the association’s demands at the Legislative Yuan and pledged to investigate the issue. However, he acknowledged that permitting firefighters to form unions is a complex matter, as it would also necessitate similar considerations for other groups, such as teachers and police.

Chen Shih-kai, spokesman for Vice President William Lai’s presidential campaign office, emphasized the government’s commitment to engaging with firefighter rights groups to reach a consensus on addressing the issue.

Presidential candidate Ko Wen-je vowed on Facebook to fully support firefighters in forming a union and to ensure the comprehensive application of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to firefighters if elected.

New Taipei City Mayor and presidential candidate Hou You-yi underscored the importance of legislation that safeguards the interests of police and firefighters, assuring them that their families would be cared for in case of any unfortunate incidents.

Independent candidate Terry Gou expressed support for government initiatives, including the establishment of firefighter schools, to address personnel shortages and bolster the ranks of firefighters nationwide.