The Ministry of Education’s hesitation over including part-time university instructors in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) has incentivized schools to conduct pre-emptive layoffs, labor rights advocates said yesterday, citing Shih Hsin University.
“Right now, the ministry is wavering on whether to use the Labor Standards Act or to keep using the new hiring regulations, so many schools are working to minimize the risk that part-time instructors will eventually be included,” said Tseng Fu-chuan (曾福全), a Shih Hsin graduate student and a member of the Taiwan Higher Education Union-sponsored Shih Hsin Labor Rights Working Group.
The school’s refusal to renew the contracts of 50 of its 522 part-time instructors mirrored similar incidents at Tamkang University, National Tsinghua University and National Chiao Tung University, he said.
The ministry announced in September last year that all part-time university instructors without full-time jobs would be included in the Labor Standards Act this year, only to back down in favor of the passage of new hiring regulations after news of the layoffs of part-time instructors emerged.
As schools seek to cut costs due to falling student numbers, many have chosen to increase their reliance on part-time instructors, who are not entitled to the benefits available to full-time instructors as detailed in the Teachers’ Act (教師法).
Under the new hiring regulations, part-time teachers without full-time jobs are still denied the employment guarantees and severance pay provided by the Labor Standards Act, but schools are required to pay pension contributions, an effective wage increase because salaries are fixed by the ministry’s regulations.
“Many schools feel that the pension contributions would be a burden, so they are looking to get rid of part-time instructors before the regulations come into effect,” Tseng said, citing Shih Hsin University as an example.
While the school had more than 500 part-time instructors last semester, only 159 lacked full-time employment elsewhere, yet they comprise 46 of the 50 part-time instructors whose contracts were not renewed, he said.
“If this was truly motivated by the quality of their teaching, you wouldn’t see this kind of distribution,” he said, calling for the ministry to put pressure on the university to renew the contracts, as it did earlier this year after a similar incident at Tamkang University.
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