Adjunct lecturers demand inclusion into labor law

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jun 30, 2017 - Page 3

Adjunct lecturers should be included in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) to prevent schools from forcing them out to avoid paying new labor insurance requirements, the Taiwan Higher Education Union said yesterday.

More than 20 union members threw pieces of chalk on to the Ministry of Education’s courtyard after tracing the outlines of members lying on the ground wearing labels saying they had been improperly fired.

“Adjunct instructors have been the ones sacrificed during the expansion of Taiwan’s higher education, because they have been used to stand in for full-time professors, but have not been given legal protection,” Taiwan Higher Education Union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) said, adding that the instructors do not receive any guarantees under the Teachers’ Act (教師法) or the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

The Teachers’ Act empowers the ministry to promulgate relevant regulations, but the ministry last month reversed last year’s decision to apply the Labor Standards Act, instead revising existing hiring rules, union members said.

The biggest issue facing adjunct instructors is the lack of employment guarantees, as their yearly contracts can be terminated without cause or severance pay, unlike ordinary workers, union researcher Chen Po-chien (陳柏謙) said.

“Adjuncts are legal orphans because the ministry’s changes to hiring rules do not include any working or rehiring rights and do not include any penalties for violations by schools,” union office director Chen Shu-han (陳書涵) said, adding that many schools are firing adjuncts to avoid paying labor insurance.

New regulations require schools to allocate 6 percent of adjuncts’ salaries toward labor insurance if the instructors are not insured by employment elsewhere, she said.

“While the ministry fully subsidizes labor insurance payments, there is no guarantee that there will be subsidies in a year or two and many schools have begun to gradually lay off adjuncts who do not have full time work elsewhere,” Chen said, adding that such adjuncts make up about a third of the nation’s 30,000 adjunct instructors.

Wu Chih-wei (吳志偉), a section head with the ministry’s Department of Higher Education, said the ministry would hear each case of unfair job termination, but did not set a timetable.