Union demands legal protections for part-time university teachers

Taipei, May 22 (CNA) The “Regulations Governing Employment of Part-time Teachers in Colleges and Higher Level Education Institutions” have failed to ensure even the basic labor rights of more than 42,000 teachers, including paid leave, health benefits and labor insurance, a survey released Tuesday found.

According to the survey, of 132 part-time teachers at 75 colleges and universities in Taiwan, 78 percent of respondents said they still have “inadequate legal protection” even after the introduction of the regulations in August 2017.

As an example, 94 percent of respondents said they are still unable to take paid leave.

This is clearly in violation of the regulations which stipulate that part-timers are entitled to a certain amount of paid leave in certain circumstances, Chen Shu-han (陳書涵), office director of Taiwan High Education Union which conducted the survey, said at a press conference.

Chen demanded that the Ministry of Education (MOE) look into the problem of enforcement vis a vis the regulations and impose punitive measures on non-compliant employers.

“We also demand the inclusion of part-time teachers and teachers on temporary contracts in the Labor Standards Act to bring their conditions of employment into line with minimum standards,” Chen added.

Replacing full-time faculty with teaching staff hired on a contractual or part-time basis is a cost-saving measure colleges and universities have relied on for years.

According to the trade union, while the number of full-time faculty has increased by about 6,000 over the past 20 years, from 40,000 to 46,000, the number of part-time teachers has grown from 25,000 to 42,000 over the same period.

Part-time teachers had no legal protection before the MOE introduced the regulations last year in response to repeated complaints by the union. However, the problems they faced remain largely the same.

Sung Yek-keh (宋亞克), a teacher of French literature at Tamkang University, offered her own experience as an example at the press conference.

Sung said last year the university was forced to rescind its decision to fire part-time teachers after she led a protest, but then slashed her teaching hours in retaliation.

Because part-time teachers are not protected by either the Labor Standards Act or Teachers’ Act, “I wasn’t even allowed to lodge an appeal with the university’s complaints committee,” Sung said.

The survey listed 10 major concerns identified by respondents, including a demand that the hourly-rate of pay for part-time teachers in public and private schools should be raised to the same level as that of full-time teachers.

Currently, a part-time teacher at a private school is paid NT$575 (US$19) per hour, which has not been increased since 1990, while the hourly wage for a part-time instructor at a public institute is NT$670, according to Lin Por-yee (林柏儀) of the trade union.

Lin said the hourly wage level for part-time teachers at public schools was increased by 15 percent to NT$670 in 2015, the first raise since 1990, but that did not apply to part-time teachers at private schools.

The Cabinet recently announced a 3 percent hike, or increase of NT$20 per hour for part-time teachers, but that will also not apply to private schools, Lin said.

According to Lin, hiring a teacher on a part-time basis costs about 40 percent less in terms of pay than a full-time appointment per month, on top of which they do not received retirement and other benefits to which a full-time faculty member is entitled.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)