Student activists protested outside a National Taiwan University (NTU) faculty council meeting yesterday against the school administration’s decision to file a lawsuit against the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) over the council’s recognition of student assistants as workers that have the right to unionize.
Chanting slogans and holding up signs accusing the NTU administration of suppressing union activities, dozens of students from not only NTU, but also National Chengchi University and National Tsing Hua University, rallied outside an NTU student center as a faculty council took place inside.
“In a written statement released by the CLA on April 11, the agency clearly stated that teaching assistants, National Science Council (NSC) project research assistants, and temporary NSC project assistants are all considered NTU employees,” NTU Union president Huang Shou-ta (黃守達) said. “However, instead of accepting the CLA’s decision, the NTU questioned it and filed an administrative lawsuit against the CLA.”
“The NTU administration is apparently try to avoid its obligations as an employer,” he added.
Initiated by NTU students, the formation of the student assistants union was approved by the Taipei City Department of Labor in April.
However, since the city’s labor department only recognizes full-time research assistants and part-time workers as university employees, the union appealed to the council, which ruled that teaching assistants and project assistants should all be considered employees.
The university disagreed with the council’s decision and filed an administrative lawsuit in a bid to overturn the decision.
Speaking to the media, NTU president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) said the relationship between a teacher and a student should not be defined as an employer-to-employee relationship.
“The council’s definition of the relationship between teachers and students has become twisted with this decision,” he said. “We want to clarify it through the lawsuit.”
Huang disagreed with Lee.
“Of course, a teaching assistant is not a typical worker, but a student of a teacher. However, giving teaching assistants the status of an employee would bring them under the protection of labor laws and prevent professors from giving them an unreasonable amount of work,” he said.
In addition to the protest outside the meeting, student representatives who attended the meeting also protested NTU’s move.
“The school administration has become twisted in the past year as it attempts to prevent students from unionizing,” NTU Student Association president Lin Wei-han (林韋翰) said during the meeting.