President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) once described the nation’s low birth rate as a national security crisis, but “educarers,” the front-line workers caring for the nation’s young, have not been treated fairly, lawmakers and the Alliance of Educare Trade Unions said yesterday.
Nurseries and kindergartens were merged into preschools under the Early Childhood Education and Care Act (幼兒教育及照顧法) last year to provide proper care and education to children aged two to six.
However, the alliance said in a statement that during the amendment process, it sought to secure the labor rights of the educarers, but was then dumbfounded to find that under the new act, preschools, without negotiations with the affected groups, have tacitly become units that are only asked to “voluntarily” apply the provisions of the Labor Insurance Act (勞工保險條例).
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said that before the enactment of the new act, all private nurseries were considered organizations operated for the public welfare and were automatically eligible for mandatory Labor Insurance coverage.
Even then, 19.7 percent of the nurseries did not have their employees covered, the alliance said.
“However, the new Act requires preschools to be registered as non-profit corporations with five or more employees before being eligible for mandatory Labor Insurance coverage,” Tuan said, adding that there are about 45,000 educarers in the nation, and only 3,100 of them, who work in public preschools, have mandatory coverage.
Apart from low wages and long hours, educarers are now deprived of mandatory coverage promised by the government, DPP Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) said.
“While paying a monthly salary of only NT$20,100, employers can avoid shouldering the NT$3,500 cost of Labor Insurance, Employment Insurance, Occupational Hazard Insurance and National Health Insurance under the existing regulations,” Wu said.
The financial burden is passed on to the government and educarers, who are now insured by their union if they are to be covered by Labor Insurance at all, Wu said. The government now has to pay 30 percent more than what it had to pay when the cost was split with their employer and the educarers 40 percent, Wu added.
Since 98 percent of educarers are female, the exclusion also means the birth subsidy funded by employment insurance — not insured by the occupational union — would be stripped from educarers who have children, Wu said.
Alliance of Educare Trade Unions director-general Wang Su-ying (王淑英) said that educarers have employers who should clearly bear the costs of insurance, rather than leaving that to their union.
In response, Council of Labor Affairs official Chen Hui-min (陳慧敏) yesterday said the council would consider requiring all preschools not yet registered as non-profit corporations to insure their employees under the Labor Insurance program and announce the resolution in a month.