Tue, Sep 27, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Students slam low wages

LOSING OUT Students from poor families are supposed to be able to pay their way by working on campus, but critics say many are paid even less than foreign laborers

BY JEAN LIN  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of university students, led by a legislator, protested yesterday against the low wages paid by on-campus jobs and demanded that the Labor Standards Law (勞基法) be applied to these jobs to protect student-labor rights.

DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said that many universities are lowering the hourly wages of on-campus jobs to cut expenses and violate student-labor rights by making already underpaid students work unpaid overtime.

Lin said that the Ministry of Education (MOE) was breaking the rules established by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) by setting their minimum hourly wage at NT$60, instead of the NT$66 required by the CLA. Although many universities pay student workers NT$70 to NT$75 per hour, which is higher than the CLA's minimum wage, the salary is still too low to cover students' expenses, Lin said.

According to Lin, the MOE provides universities with subsidies to enable students from poor families to work on campus and earn money, but in reality their salaries are even lower than those of foreign laborers.

Li Chun-ta (李俊達), a student at Soochow University, said that with the high costs of private tuition, expensive books and rising cost of living, students from poor families cannot afford to pay their way even with steady on-campus jobs.

"These jobs should provide an opportunity for poor students to become economically independent and pay their own expenses, but low wages make this impossible," Li said.

Other violations of student-labor rights include withholding wages if a student quits a job after working less than a month, which is in contravention of a Labor Standards Law regulation which states that employees have to pay employees for all days worked.

The required 180 hours work per month at some schools also caused discontent. According to the Labor Standards Law, the maximum hours of work cannot exceed 168 per month, Lin said.

In response to the accusations, Chung Hsin-chang (張忠信), a senior specialist in the department of technological and vocational education at the MOE, said that subsidies were only given to private technological and vocational universities, while public schools had to see to their own funding.

Chung also said that on-campus jobs are learning opportunities for students and the money given should not be called "wages."

However, Chung said that the MOE is willing to make alterations to its rules.

According to Adam Hsieh (謝青雲) of the CLA, only certain on-campus jobs, such as those of technicians and drivers, are under the protection of the Labor Standards Law.

Hsieh said that the law does not apply to other students' jobs and therefore the minimum wages and hours proposed in the regulations do not apply either.

Lin Po-yi (林柏儀), a student at National Cheng-chi University, said that students demand a minimum wage of NT$95 per hour and that on-campus jobs should come under the protection of the Labor Standards Law.

"We don't know what kind of jobs we would have on campus. It could be administrative work or it could be something more dangerous, like fixing equipment," Lin said. "If an accident happens while we're doing our jobs, does it mean we do not have protection under the Labor Standards Law?"

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