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Taiwan teachers can form labor unions but not strike
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2010-06-01 02:57 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Teachers will be allowed to form labor unions but not to strike, according to amendments to the Union Act passed by the Legislative Yuan Tuesday.

The National Teachers Association welcomed the change, but expressed regret that teachers still did not hold the right to strike. Teachers now already had the right to solidarity and the right to negotiate, but they were still missing the third major labor right, the right to strike, the association said.

The Council of Labor Affairs described the passage as a major step forward but explained its opposition to teacher strikes.

“In order to protect the right of students to receive education, the Labor Dispute Resolution Act will include the rule that teachers still won’t be allowed to strike,” said CLA Vice Minister Kuo Fang-yu.

Unions would still be off limits though for military personnel and for staff at companies directly under the Ministry of National Defense.

The CLA said the passage in third reading of the Union Act Tuesday signaled the completion of three significant labor-related acts after efforts lasting one decade. The two others were the Group Negotiation Act passed in 2008 and the Labor Dispute Resolution Act from 2009, the CLA said.

CLA Minister Jennifer Wang said the three acts and their amendments would come into force either next January 1 or on Labor Day, May 1.

Another change to the Union Act was the compulsory membership of workers in labor unions, though without the stipulation of fines. When an earlier version of the law was about to win approval last October without that element, labor union leaders said it would cause the demise of their organizations. A dozen unions came out to the Legislative Yuan to protest against the absence of compulsory membership.

Some lawmakers from the ruling Kuomintang said that forcing laborers to join a union would infringe their human rights and limit their freedom, but senior legislator Lin Yi-shih said the solution including the absence of fines, which was reached Tuesday morning, was a positive compromise between human rights and the operational needs of unions.

The solution gave room to unions to recruit members, while laborers who really did not feel like joining a union could do so without having to fear fines.

Under the Union Act, employers will not have the right to take actions against union members such as cutting wages, refusing to employ them, downgrading them or even laying them off. Union representatives could also arrange for leave to have time to take part in union affairs, reports said.

Foreign workers would for the first time have the right to run for office in labor unions, since the law did away with the requirement that all union officials should hold Taiwanese citizenship.

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