GOVERNMENT DIVIDED:The Ministry of Labor has proposed the idea, but the Ministry of Education expressed reservations about it because of its potential impact on students
Following the example of other countries, the Ministry of Labor said it is considering allowing teachers to strike and may start pushing for revisions to the law by the end of the year.
After years of campaigning by teachers’ groups and other labor rights advocates, the ministry said it would consider revising the Act on Handling Labor Disputes (勞資爭議處理法).
However, Deputy Minister of Education Lin Shu-chen (林淑真) said the Ministry of Education was more reserved about the idea.
She said the focus of the education system should be on the students, that it is the education ministry’s job to protect their right to education and the ministry is worried about the impact on students if teachers decide to strike.
Lin said that it is a “big issue” that “should be discussed by both the labor and education ministries” before making a final decision, adding that restricting teachers’ right to strike should not have violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which now both enjoy the status of domestic laws.
National Alliance of Parents’ Organizations president Wu Fu-pin (吳福濱) agrees with the education ministry, opposing teachers being allowed to strike.
He said that teachers in public schools should not enjoy the benefits and salaries of public servants on the one hand, and ask for the right to strike that belongs to workers on the other.
“Who would be there to look after students if teachers went on strike?” he asked.
He accused the government of trying to please teachers without thinking about the consequences of the policy.
However, National Federation of Teachers’ Unions president Wu Chung-tai (吳忠泰) supported the proposal, saying that allowing teachers to strike is part of the government’s efforts to normalize labor conditions in the country.
He said that striking is a last resort for workers to defend their rights, adding that there could be a higher threshold for teachers to launch a strike or ways to make up for problems that may have been caused by a strike by teachers, but teachers should not be denied the right to strike.
Wu said that teachers would not strike often, since they would lose their salaries during a strike, and would be criticized by the public.