Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Taiwan: Education union’s pressure prompts a private educational provider to apologise for harassment

published 16 October 2020 updated 20 October 2020

The National Teachers’ Association (NTA) in Taiwan publicly denounced the Kang Hsuan Educational Publishing Group (KH Group) for its unlawful practices concerning public health as well as labour issues. The KH Group is one of the largest private educational corporations in Taiwan.

Workplace bullying against an alleged whistle-blower

The NTA’s actions have arisen in light of repeated COVID-19 quarantine regulation violations by the KH Group chairperson. In addition, the NTA claims that the chairperson, Lee Wan-Chi, asked the company’s management to identify a whistle-blower who brought the violations to light. The whistle-blower reported Lee’s actions to the press, city councillors, and the health authority, claiming the chairperson’s actions had damaged the company’s image and labour relations.

The NTA has demanded the implementation of legislative amendments to secure rights of whistle-blowers and end workplace bullying.

The KH Group employee reported that Lee, despite the 14-day quarantine requirement for those returning from China, had participated in several meetings, endangering employees and public health. The whistle-blower also claimed that Lee had deliberately left his mobile phone at home to avoid tracking by the health authority.

Moreover, after Lee’s violation was reported and he was fined by the authority; the head of the company ordered an internal investigation for the whistle-blower. This investigation led to claims of workplace bullying. A female employee, who had worked for KH Group for 18 years, left the company after being summoned by the management several times for questioning and being publicly named as the whistle-blower.

NTA’s boycott campaign

The NTA immediately denounced KH Group’s practices against a senior educational worker who legitimately exercised her civil right to reveal the company owner’s illegal behaviour that threatened public health.

The union insisted that Lee, a head of an educational corporation and an advocate of corporate social responsibility, had broken the Communicable Disease Control Act. Furthermore, it said that Lee’s attempt to target and punish the whistle-blower was considered unacceptable by teachers, parents, and society.

Repeatedly urging the KH Group to issue a formal apology to the public, the NTA was also prepared to call for a national boycott campaign against all KH Group textbooks, private schools, and publications.

The education union’s statements attracted significant coverage in the daily news, which increased anger as well as support from educational stakeholders. More and more groups have joined the campaign, including union federations, representatives of parents and the community, and legislators from all parties.

Labour authority’s inspections

Following the pressure from the NTA’s organised campaign and from the public, the labour authority intervened, conducting inspections of working conditions, resignations and severance payments; basic rights protected by the Labour Standards Act. After the mediation chaired by the authority, KH Group settled with the female employee and, a few days later, the chairperson released to the public a formal apology letter.

NTA’s ongoing vigilance

The NTA is insisting that the KH Group should further implement concrete measures demonstrating its determination to prevent any future misconduct in educational institutions it operates in Taiwan and China.

Secondly, it firmly called for teachers to reconsider KH Group as their school textbook provider, and appealed to the public to collaborate with the union to monitor the company’s labour practices.

Thirdly, based on the lessons learnt regarding insufficient legal protections for whistle-blowers and bullied workers in the workplace, the NTA said that Members of Parliament should amend relevant laws in upcoming legislative sessions to make them stronger and more effective.