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June 24, 2017

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New labor law prohibits teachers from striking

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed the Labor Unions Act, a landmark achievement that will allow teachers to form unions and expand migrant workers' roles in labor organizations.

The Labor Unions Act joins the Labor Dispute Resolution Act and the Collective Barganing Act as a triptych of labor laws whose passage has taken decades. The three acts were proposed during the Lee Teng-hui administration and went unresolved during the Chen Shui-bian administration, as an agreement between laborers and employers could not be reached.

With the other two bills passed during the current Ma Ying-jeou administration, yesterday's passage of the Labor Unions Act marks the completion of the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle and represents a milestone in Taiwan's pushing for more rights to laborers.

The hallmark of the new law, set to take effect next year at the earliest, is giving Taiwan's teachers the right to form and join unions, a privilege that Taiwan's educators have been fighting for years. However, the law prohibits teachers from holding strikes.

Taiwan's soldiers and those working in industries that deal with national defense, such as weapons-making, will not be able to form unions, the law says. Governemnt workers, meanwhile, are allowed to form relevant organizations based on the Civil Service Act.

The law also expanded foreign laborers' roles in unions, giving them more powers to fight for their rights through unions. The law says that anyone 20 years of age regardless of nationality can take part in unions' director and supervisor elections, in essence allowing foreign laborers to serve on unions' director and supervisor boards.

Under the law, laborers are required to join unions but will not be punished if they didn't.

Employers are prohibited to fire, lay off or reduce the salaries of workers who join unions or are engaged in union activities, the law stipulates. Otherwise the employer will be given a maximum fine of NT$300,000.

Union members are given the right to take days off, if they had to handle union business. Employers banning workers from taking days off to take care of union business will be given a maximum fine of NT$100,000.

The law specifies that the union membership fee a worker pays for a particular month can't be greater than 2 percent of his monthly wage, nor can it be below 0.5 percent of his wage for that month.

The law is not applicable to dispatched workers, whose numbers have been surging over the past years. Experts have cited their concerns employers will use this as a loophole to hire more dispatched workers.

Dispatched workers are those dispatched by manpower agencies to companies based on their needs. These workers do not enjoy the same benefits, such as receiving medical and labor insurance, that are provided to full-time employees.

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