At least 40 Filipino graduate students at Yu Da University of Science and Technology (YDU) have allegedly been forced to work at a tile factory in Miaoli since April last year, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅) said yesterday.
The university is the third school to be accused of collaborating with personnel agencies to force international students into manual labor, following University of Kang Ning and Hsing Wu University, he told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan, adding that such incidents have “seriously damaged Taiwan’s image.”
YDU in April last year recruited 52 students from the Philippines through the study abroad agency Faith (中華飛世文化教育發展協會), which told students that they could work and study in Taiwan through the school’s graduate program, he said.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Upon arriving in Taiwan, the students were handed over to the personnel agency Harvest (華維思), which told them to sign a contract prescribing manual labor and payments of NT$2,000 a month to Harvest for consultations and work assignments, he said.
According to the contract, if students showed a “bad attitude,” their employer could terminate the contract and make them pay a penalty of US$1,000.
It would also disqualify them for a tuition installment plan and require them to immediately pay their tuition in full.
Afterward, students were assigned work at a tile factory 4.7km from campus, he said, adding that they worked 40 hours a week, although the legal limit for international students is 20 hours a week.
The students, who were paid NT$140 per hour, worked four to five days a week, from 8am to 8pm on days without classes and from 4pm to midnight on days with classes, he added.
“When some of the students tried to discuss their work situation with the school, they were told to sign a form by which they voluntarily dropped out,” he said.
After eight of the first 24 students quit the program, Harvest added a clause to the contract requiring students recruited after September to pay a penalty of NT$500,000 if they revealed any information about the contract or their work, he said.
One of the students, Raymark, 26, said he was surprised to find that the work was taxing manual labor, instead of work related to their field of study.
“We became slaves of our dreams,” he said.
“I gave my best to my work, but my body is neither a log nor a robot,” he said, adding that worse than the physical pain was the abuse from their line manager, who often shouted at them.
“All I request now is to get back all the illegal fees collected from me and my colleagues, as that was hard-earned money,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Education Lio Mon-Chi (劉孟奇) apologized to the students at the news conference and vowed to protect their rights.
The way the students have been treated is “totally unacceptable,” he said.
The ministry would severely punish schools that deceive students and force them to do illegal work, he said, adding that it would make their illicit actions public.
To better protect international students, the ministry has set up a hotline for reporting problems encountered at schools, he said, adding that the hotline — 0800-789-007 — is available in Chinese, English, Vietnamese and Indonesian.
The ministry would make sure the school assists students in terminating the unfair contracts and reimbursing illegally collected agency fees, Department of Technological and Vocational Education Director Yang Yu-hui (楊玉惠) said.
YDU has been banned from recruiting international students and there would be further punishment if the school was found to have participated in arranging the illegal work, she said.
After being informed about the manual labor, YDU promptly began investigating the matter and helped the students terminate their contracts, the school said in a statement.
It denied ever telling students to drop out and said that it would review its policies for international students.
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