Sun, Jun 30, 2019 - Page 3 News List

University, broker deny overworking 19 first-year students from Indonesia

Staff writer, with CNA

Chienkuo Technology University in Changhua County and a human resources broker on Friday denied an accusation by the Ministry of Education (MOE) that they were complicit in making overseas students work excessive hours.

The school in a statement on Friday disputed the findings of a ministry investigation into the case, saying that the school never forced the students to work and did not make inappropriate deductions for expenses from students’ salaries.

The ministry on Thursday said that it suspected the university and broker’s treatment of the students might have contravened the Criminal Code, leading it to hand the case over to prosecutors.

SUSPICIONS

The ministry became suspicious in the middle of this month when 19 Indonesian first-year students at the school told the ministry that they were being forced to work excessive hours, and had their passports and residence permits confiscated by a broker recommended by the university.

The ministry began collecting evidence through Changhua County authorities and its findings confirmed the students’ claims, Technological and Vocational Education Department Director Yang Yu-hui (楊玉惠) said.

The 19 students had to work 48 to 54 hours per week at a welding facility, more than double the maximum 20 hours a week that international students are legally allowed to work, Yang said.

The Indonesian students worked from 1:30pm to 9pm on Monday through Friday, as well as some weekends, performing dangerous welding tasks, said Yang, who accused the university of being aware of the situation all along.

The incident is the latest in a series of cases involving abuse of foreign students, mostly from South or Southeast Asian countries, by Taiwanese universities and human resource brokers over the past year.

Under a government program, schools can receive subsidies by offering internship programs to students from those regions, but in some cases, universities and brokers have used the programs as pretexts to recruit students and have them serve as cheap labor.

Yang said that the ministry also found that the 19 students were being paid a monthly salary of about NT$29,000 — more than they could have earned by only working 20 hours a week.

The university deducted up to NT$15,000 per month from the students’ pay for tuition, accommodation and three meals a day, she said, which also made the ministry suspicious of the school’s practices.

SCHOOL’S DEFENSE

The school waived first-year tuition for international students under the internship program and students were only asked to pay for accommodation and other miscellaneous fees amounting to NT$22,000, Chienkuo Technology University said in its statement on Friday.

The school did not mention whether it was aware that the students were being overworked, but said that the students had the freedom to decide whether to work and could choose which company to work for, adding that it did not force them to work.

The university said it has begun investigating the allegations of mistreatment and pledged to help the students recover any owed wages, adding that it would instruct partner companies to comply with employment laws.

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