President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has not fulfilled its promise to protect the rights of teachers and students working as part-time employees at schools, the Taiwan Higher Education Union said yesterday, accusing Tsai of backtracking on her promise to extend the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) to part-time educators.
Tsai’s labor policies on education workers are no better than those of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration, union researcher Chen Po-chien (陳柏謙) told a news conference in Taipei.
Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Labor show there are about 13,000 part-time educators that do not hold a second job, while Ministry of Education statistics show that about 60,000 university students work as teaching assistants.
The Tsai administration had pledged to improve the rights of part-time teaching staff at universities and high schools by including them in the act, Chen said.
He said that the government had divided part-time faculty members into those who hold jobs other than their teaching posts and those who do not, promising to include the latter group in the act in August last year.
This caused some schools to announce mass lay-offs of part-time teachers who did not have a second job out of concern over a potential increase in personnel costs once they are covered by the act, he said.
The government later went back on its promise, saying that the plan to include part-time teachers in the act had been put on hold and that NT$60 million (US$1.99 million) would be budgeted to provide pensions to part-time teachers who plan to retire this year, he said.
The union has campaigned for part-time teachers to be covered by the Teachers’ Act (教師法) so that they can enjoy the same rights as public-school teachers, but they have been denied equal rights in the amended labor act, Chen said.
As for students working part-time as teaching assistants, the government divided these students into two groups — those whose work to aid students’ learning, which are not covered by the labor act, and those whose employment is regulated by contracts they signed with their schools, he said, adding that universities decide to which group an assistant belongs.
The union has called on the government to honor Tsai’s campaign promise to protect the rights of student assistants by including all assistants under the labor act so that they could receive National Health Insurance and labor insurance coverage.
Since institutions are required to pay the Ministry of Labor a fee of 6 percent or more of their employees’ salaries as a fund toward their pensions, some schools have been exploiting student assistants by hiring them as informal employees tasked with assisting professors to avoid paying the fee, while giving them work meant for contracted student assistants, he said.
Shih Hsin University associate professor Chen Hsin-hsing (陳信行) called on Tsai to revise her labor policies, which he said pander to corporations and widen the income gap.
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