Tue, Jan 18, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Teachers, parents, politicians haggle over labor law

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A student representative of the Laboring Parents Self-Help Association, second right, is held back at a press conference convened by the National Parents Alliance at the Legislative Yuan yesterday. The association supports the right of teachers to form unions.

PHOTO: LIN CHENG-KUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The legislature yesterday agreed to vote on three labor law-related amendments on Thursday to determine if teachers can form unions.

Lawmakers reached agreement on the vote during negotiations yesterday morning on the three laws: the Labor Union Law, the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law (勞資爭議處理法) and the Collective Agreement Law (團體協約法).

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Lin Hui-kuan (林惠官), who moved a proposal to change the Labor Union Law so that teachers may form unions, said depriving teachers of the right to form a union went against international trends and democratic standards.

"A total of 156 countries around the world allow their teachers and civil servants to form a union," Lin said. "Even the Swiss air force can go on strike.

"Letting teachers form a union simply corresponds to global trends and President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) pledge to make Taiwan a human rights-oriented nation," he said.

While Lin's draft would grant teachers the right to form labor unions, it would prevent soldiers on active duty from doing so.

Lin's draft also seeks to amend the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law so that the government may step in to resolve disputes between teachers and schools.

The draft proposed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus was similar, though it would also ban employees in the arms industry under the auspices of the Ministry of National Defense from forming a union.

The KMT caucus also proposed that the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law be amended to prevent teachers from going on strike.

The Cabinet draft, on the other hand, would ban teachers, civil servants, the armed forces and those in the arms industry under ministry authority from forming unions, reasoning that teachers, as public servants, do not have the right to strike.

The Cabinet has also proposed amending the Labor Disputes Law so that a 30-day cooling-off period would apply for those working in other specified areas planning to strike.

The areas specified are tele-communications, transportation, public health, refineries, hospitals and energy.

Earlier, union members interrupted a press conference held by a parents' association. The two groups engaged in a verbal clash and some minor scuffling.

Baw Chung-miin (包崇敏), chairman of the Parents' Association in Taipei, said that the association had three reasons to oppose teachers forming a union.

The association also opposed spending NT$10 billion on the hiring of substitute teachers if teachers strike. The association also said the ability to form a union would "violate the basic right of the teachers" because they would be forced to join a union. Baw also led 14 members of the association in lobbying three legislative caucuses yesterday afternoon.

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