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COST OF LIVING/Union demands pay hike for foreign teachers after 20 years pay freeze

03/26/2024 10:52 PM
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Foreign teachers at the British Council in Taiwan who are members of the Taiwan Higher Education Union (THEU) demand fair pay at a news conference organized by the union Tuesday. Photo courtesy of THEU.
Foreign teachers at the British Council in Taiwan who are members of the Taiwan Higher Education Union (THEU) demand fair pay at a news conference organized by the union Tuesday. Photo courtesy of THEU.

Taipei, March 26 (CNA) The Taiwan Higher Education Union (THEU) on Tuesday demanded a pay raise of at least 25 percent for foreign teachers at the English language teaching centers run by the British Council (BC) in Taiwan, saying that their pay has been frozen for 20 years during which time inflation has increased more than 25 percent.

The THEU issued the demand at a news conference during which foreign teachers at the British Council in Taiwan who joined the union starting September 2023 also called for the management to reasonably respond to the union's request for fair pay.

The THEU is a trade union formed in Taiwan in 2012, its members comprise faculty and staff from the nation's institutes of higher education.

The British Council in Taiwan operates under the British Office Taipei, the United Kingdom government's representative office in Taiwan. Its first English teaching center was established in Xinyi District in Taipei in 2004, employing foreign teachers to teach English, said THEU researcher Chen Po-chien (陳柏謙) at the press event.

Twenty years later, the BC has three teaching centers with around 50 teachers and about 2,000 students. It is also preparing to open a fourth center, according to Chen.

Chen indicated that the BC teaching centers run a profitable business, citing union data, with tuition fees having surged by around 35 percent since 2016.

Taking the Xinyi teaching center as an example, its annual revenue from tuition fees could have exceeded NT$100 million (US$3.13 million), he said.

However, English teachers there have received no pay rise in 20 years although the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by at least 25 percent during the period, Chen indicated.

Currently, two-thirds of BC teachers have joined the union, Chen said, adding that as such, the union entered negotiations with BC management in accordance with the law and proposed a more than 25 percent pay hike for the teachers.

Most of the BC teachers are highly qualified foreign teachers who come from the U.K., the United States or other English-speaking countries, according to the union.

However, after four rounds of negotiations since December last year, the management continues to reject the union's pay hike request, offering only a 2.5 percent salary increase from July 2024 to March 2025, followed by a further appraisal, according to Chen.

The union will ask the labor affairs authorities to assist with mediation of the dispute and if it does not work, does not rule out the possibility of taking labor action in accordance with the law.

In response, the BC told CNA that through negotiations with the union, it learned that some teaching staff are unhappy with their salary and will continue to discuss and talk with the union to settle the dispute.

The BC said it will do its best to minimize the negative impact of the dispute on students and their parents while continuing to provide the very best teaching service amid ongoing negotiations.

(By Hsu Chih-wei, Wu Shen-hung and Evelyn Kao)

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