Premier vows more funding for firefighters
Premier Chen Chien-jen says the cabinet plans to allocate an additional NT$8 billion for the island's fire services.
The premier says the additional funding will be used to purchase new equipment and protective gear. The premier also stressed that the Tsai administration is "fully committed to protecting the rights of all firefighters." The statements come days after the deadly fire at a golf ball factory in Pingtung, which left nine people dead, including four firefighters and 110 people injured. One other person remains unaccounted for.
Opposition lawmakers are calling for the government to provide fire departments with new generation firefighting robots and new firehoses with enhanced range and water capacity. There are also calls for the government to allow firefighters to be unionized.
Taiwan People's Party lawmaker Lai Hsiang-ling has added calls saying firefighters should be allowed to unionize, and the government needs to ensure their rights are protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
However, the premier says as firefighters are public sector employees, "suitable policies" will need to be established before they are allowed to form unions and that will be up to the Examination Yuan.
Meanwhile the Pingtung County Government has fined Launch Technologies NT$2.4 million, the owner of the factory, for violating operational regulations, including storing excess flammable materials in the workplace. According to Pingtung County Magistrate Zhou Chun-mi, the fine was imposed in accordance with the Fire Services Act.
Zhou says an investigation found the company had stored 3,000 kilograms of organic peroxides used to manufacture golf ball cores at the factory and that was three times the maximum allowed amount of the substances known to pose severe fire and explosion hazards.
The county magistrate also says Launch Technologies provided firefighters with an incomplete safety data sheet on their arrival at the scene. That data sheet contained only one organic peroxide type, but it was later found that the company was storing two other types of chemical substances at the factory.
Launch Technologies is also facing charges of failing to assign a person to the site to assist the fire commander and the county magistrate says the company will also be held liable for endangering public safety and negligence resulting in death.