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Taiwan: Labor Union Law Amended, Giving Teachers Right to Unionize

(June 10, 2010) On June 1, 2010, the Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China (or Taiwan) approved amendments to Taiwan's Labor Union Law that, in conjunction with the 2008 amended Collective Bargaining Agreement Law and 2009 amended Settlement of Labor Disputes Law, will update Taiwan's triptych of laws on labor rights. As Wang Ju-hsuan, Minister of the Council of Labor Affairs, stated, “[t]he simultaneous implementation of the three labor laws will provide a comprehensive shield of three labor rights”; i.e., the right to negotiate, to organize, and to strike. (Audrey Wang, New Labor Law Guarantees Right to Unionize, TAIWAN TODAY, June 2, 2010, available at

The amended Law allows much more flexibility in union structures, thereby permitting implementation of the arbitration mechanism required under the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law. The mechanism mandates that in labor-management disputes workers must be represented by a labor union. The Labor Union Law makes it compulsory for workers in enterprises to be members of the enterprise union, but does not stipulate fines. (Wang, supra; Taiwan Teachers Can Form Labor Unions but Not Strike, TAIWAN NEWS, June 1, 2010, available at

Some legislators contended that making union membership compulsory would be an infringement on workers human rights and freedom, but, according to lawmaker Lin Yi-shih, the solution of the lack of imposition of fines “was a positive compromise between human rights and the operational needs of unions” that gives “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.” (TAIWAN NEWS, supra.) According to the amended Law, the union membership fee paid by a worker for any given month cannot be more than 2% or less than 0.5% of the monthly wage. (New Labor Law Prohibits Teachers from Striking, THE CHINA POST, June 2, 2010, available at

Under the revised Law, restrictions on the right of workers to form unions have been eased, union representatives may arrange for leave to engage in union affairs, and foreigner workers may also now participate in labor unions and run for union offices (due to removal of the requirement that union officials must be Taiwan citizens). Moreover, employers who interfere in labor unions' operations or treat union leaders unfairly will be subject to fines. The maximum fine for such actions is NT$300,000 (about US$9223); the fine for prohibiting workers from taking leave for union business is NT$100,000. (Wang, supra; TAIWAN NEWS, supra; THE CHINA POST, supra.) More specifically, employers are barred from cutting union members' wages, refusing them employment, downgrading their jobs, or laying them off. (TAIWAN NEWS, supra.)

While a key feature of the amended Law is that it allows the formation of teachers' unions, it does not accord teachers the right to strike, “in order to protect the right of students to receive education,” the Council on Labor Affairs stated. (Id.) While it welcomed the new right to form unions, the National Teachers Association “expressed regret that teachers still did not hold the right to strike.” (Id.) The Law prohibits soldiers and workers in national defense-related industries from forming unions; government workers are permitted to unionize under the Civil Service Law. (THE CHINA POST, supra.)

The Law does not apply to the increasing numbers of temps or “dispatched workers,” i.e., workers “dispatched by manpower agencies to companies based on their needs” – who do not enjoy the same benefits as full-time employees. Experts have expressed concern that employers might use this gap in the law “as a loophole to hire more dispatched workers.” (Id.)

Minister Wang stated that the three laws and their amendments are to enter into force either on January 1 (for the Labor Union Law) or May 1 (Labor Day), 2011 (for the other two laws). (TAIWAN NEWS, supra; see also Legislative Yuan Passes Amended “Labor Union Law” at Third Reading [in Chinese, has text of the Law], LAWBANK, June 2, 2010, available at
; Amendment to Settling Labor Disputes Law, 6870 THE GAZETTE OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT 16-34 (July 1, 2009), available at; Amendment to Collective Agreement Law, 6779 THE GAZETTE OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT 2-10 (Jan. 1, 2008), available at