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Taiwan: moving ahead on teachers' rights

“We want to see the teachers’ union blossom,” Vice President of Taiwan, Mr. Vincent C. Siew, told an EI delegation - headed by General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen and Chief Regional Coordinator Aloysius Mathews - visiting Taiwan this week.

EI has congratulated the government of Taiwan on progress made in achieving international human and trade union rights. One year ago, the Taiwanese government lifted the prohibition to form teachers’ unions, which led to the creation in July 2011 of the National Federation of Teachers’ Unions (NFTU) of Taiwan.

Raise status of teachers

Van Leeuwen and Mathews, who also met with education minister Mr. Wei-ling Chiang, asked the Taiwanese government to establish a meaningful dialogue with NFTU. They requested that the union be given the space and opportunity to raise the status of Taiwan’s 200,000 teachers and to help improve education quality.

Despite all the progress made in the past decade, the new labour law still imposes some restrictions on teachers’ trade union rights, such as the prohibition to establish unions at school level. EI’s representatives recommended that these restrictions be lifted.

One of the immediate challenges facing the Taiwanese school system is the extension of compulsory education from nine to 12 years and ensuring free access to all senior high schools. Van Leeuwen noted that there is no reason for parents to be afraid that teachers’ unions put students’ interests at risk. “Teachers, students and parents share the same interests,” he said. “When teachers resort to industrial action, it is never to harm their students, but, on the contrary, to create better learning conditions for all.”

Strong union membership

He also said that Education International will help NFTU to develop into a strong professional union that will be able to play an important role in the economic, democratic and social development of Taiwan. NFTU president Liu Chinhsu, who is also the president of the professional association NTA, which is a member of EI, said that he expects that all NTA members will become NFTU members in due course. NFTU currently has 80,000 members.

The EI delegation also met with the Vice President of the Taiwanese parliament, Hung Hsiu-Chu, and with the Deputy Minister of Labour, Pan Shih-Wei.

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