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Government urged to lift ban on teachers' corporate unions

Government urged to lift ban on teachers' corporate unions

Taipei, April 30 (CNA) The National Federation of Teachers Unions urged the government Monday -- the eve of Labor Day -- to scrap regulations limiting teachers' rights to establish corporate unions in schools. The federation said at a press conference that as teachers are banned from establishing corporate unions and can only establish trade or industrial unions, they cannot fully exercise their labor rights due to the limited nature of the latter organizations. Despite the government having lifted a ban on the teachers' trade and industrial unions and the passing of two United Nations human rights covenants -- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- teachers' labor rights are still limited, the federation said. It urged the government to amend the Labor Unions Act, the Collective Agreement Act, and the Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes Act, which are the country's three benchmark acts designed to protect workers' rights. The Labor Unions Act stipulates that teachers can only establish trade or industrial unions, which require no compulsory membership by teachers -- a regulation the federation said limits their rights to organize. In addition, the Collective Agreement Act stipulates that only a trade union with membership of more than 50 percent of the employees in a given industry has the right to engage in collective bargaining and the right to negotiate disputes with employers. Under the Settlement of Labor-Management Disputes Act, meanwhile, teachers are prohibited from going on strike. The federation suggested that if the government will not lift the ban on teachers' corporate unions in the short-term, it should at least allow trade union members to receive paid leave to attend union meetings. Fred van Leeuwen, general secretary of Education International -- a global federation of teachers' unions -- who was invited to speak at the press conference, said local society holds serious misconceptions about teachers' unions, adding that he was especially shocked to realize that many Taiwanese believe teachers' demands for their rights undermine the rights of students. As an example of how this is not necessarily the case, he noted that more than 30,000 Dutch teachers went on strike in early March to protest against government cuts in special education programs. The strike was described as a political move by the government, but it eventually caved in to public pressure and withdrew the cuts. The teachers were fighting for the quality of education, and their strike was scheduled so as not to coincide with the students' testing season, he said. Many advanced countries around the world have powerful teachers' unions, Leeuwen went on, adding that Taiwan should not discriminate against or fear the unions, but should in fact encourage them to improve the country's teaching quality. (By Sabine Cheng and Ann Chen)


Updated : 2021-05-14 20:31 GMT+08:00