After a long wait, teachers in Taiwan officially established their national trade union yesterday after a legal revision that took effect on May 1 finally allowed teachers to unionize.
The National Teachers’ Union (NTU), a successor of the National Teachers’ Association formed 12 years ago, pledged in its inaugural statement to help open a new era in the country’s education system while seeking better protection for teachers’ rights.
However, the amended Labor Union Act (工會法) does not allow teachers’ unions to stage strikes, unlike workers in other industries.
Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said this provision was mainly to ensure that the right to education for students will not be compromised.
Wang said the NTU was the first step to better protect the basic rights of teachers and that teachers can seek to resolve their disputes with management by way of arbitration.
“In the long run, teachers may one day be given the right to strike,” Wang said.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that teaching has been a “profession of conscience” and that teachers’ rights and well-being should be better protected with the establishment of unions.
He expressed the hope that teachers’ unions could serve as the promoters of a harmonious relationship between management and labor, rather than an adversarial one, so that education could become a driving force for national development.
In a press statement, Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the NTU would serve as a platform for dialogue within the education sector.
She pledged that her party would fully cooperate with teachers’ unions in cultivating the next generation of talent for the country if she wins the presidency.
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