Labor union advocates yesterday condemned the Ministry of Education for allowing universities to use “study assistantships” to get around labor regulations.
Student organizers affiliated with the Taiwan Higher Education Union said that the special assistantships have proliferated since the ministry encouraged schools to adopt them last year, with schools bearing out activists’ predictions that the assistantships would be used to skirt labor standards.
Unlike other assistantships, “study” assistants are ineligible to be included in the national labor insurance system, the premiums of which are paid mainly by employers.
National Taiwan University Union secretary-general Tseng Chi-hua (曾稚驊) said the “study” aspect of the assistantships is unclear, with responsibilities identical to regular assistants.
“The school just tells you to fill out a simple form stating your study objective and that is enough to count you as a study assistant,” he said.
National Yang-Ming University labor rights working group activist Wang Wei-jen (王偉任) said that the special courses in which his school’s “study” assistants are required to enroll are not graded, with students also barred from counting the special courses as credits toward their qualifications.
Chen Ping-chuan (陳炳權), the union’s convener for National Taiwan Normal University, said that while university regulations state that students can choose between “study” and “labor” assistantships, the school administration has rigged the choice by mandating that “labor” assistants have to work at least four hours per day — more than double that of “study” assistants.
“While the Ministry of Labor has ruled that universities are covered by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), this has not been fully implemented,” Taiwan Higher Education Union secretary-general Kao Shih-wen said, adding that the Ministry of Labor has so far failed to respond to the Ministry of Education’s “study assistantship” initiative.
Student advocates and schools have been engaged in a prolonged tug-of-war over labor standards after the Ministry of Labor last year ruled that the assistants were within the scope of the act.
Additional reporting by Lee Ying-chien
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