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May 30, 2017

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Tamkang says plan for layoffs isn't to avoid pension costs

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Tamkang University (淡江大學) came under fire Sunday after confirming that it intended to lay off 200 full-time adjunct professors, but said the plans were not aimed at ducking impending hikes in labor pension costs.

Song Ya-ke (宋亞克), a nontenured professor at the private university, wrote on the PTT Bulletin Board System on Saturday evening that the school intended to dismiss all of its full-time adjunct professors as part of cost-cutting efforts.

Song accused Tamkang's management of acting without a conscience or social responsibility in a bid to save money.

The Ministry of Education announced in September that all nontenured professors — those who don't have permanent employment at schools — would be governed by the Labor Standards Act starting Aug. 1 this year.

Like their tenured counterparts, adjunct professors are currently governed by the Teacher's Act, but unlike them, they receive hourly wages and do not gain seniority as their years of employment at a school increase.

The new rules seek to provide some compensation for these disadvantages by requiring schools to cover 6 percent of nontenured professors' labor pensions.

Critics have warned that the new policy may lead to the mass dismissal of adjunct professors as schools try to avoid the extra costs.

Of the 45,000 adjunct teachers nationwide, as many as 10,000 face a high likelihood of being let go by schools that don't want to be on the hook for the increased labor costs, according to the Taiwan Higher Education Union.

Tamkang University has confirmed Song's post, saying that it will no longer reappoint 200 of its current nontenured professors, most of them from the school's literature and international studies departments, but claims that the move has nothing to do with avoiding labor pension costs.

Hiring decisions are made to ensure that the school has the teaching staff that can best help students prepare for their post-graduation careers, the school said.

Besides, Tamkang University said, keeping on the adjunct professors in question would cost "a few extra million New Taiwanese dollars every year," which was not a meaningful amount relative to the school's overall budget.

It also added that the final decision on whether to rehire nontenured teachers was up to individual university departments, not school management.

Lawmaker Demands Heavy Penalty

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧) later Sunday demanded that the education and labor ministry launch a probe into the matter and be ready to hand out heavy punishments for any schools that attempt to avoid labor pension payments by illegally dismissing professors.

The intention of the Education Ministry's new policy, Su said, was to assist vulnerable workers who did not have a safety net from their employment.

"If schools refuse to hire nontenured professors to avoid extra costs, then the original purpose of the policy is gone," she said.

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