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British Council Taiwan: teachers unionise over pay

English language teachers at British Council Taiwan have unionised for the first time, demanding a salary increase to keep up with 25% inflation and to end 20 years of wage stagnation.  
April 4 2024
2 Min Read

English language teachers at British Council teaching centres in Taiwan have unionised for the first time, demanding a salary increase to keep up with 25% inflation and to end two decades of wage stagnation.

The union, which represents more than two-thirds of British Council Taiwan teachers, has rejected BCTW’s offer of a 2.5% non-consolidated (temporary) pay rise which would last nine months.

“They have until the end of April to give a better offer. We would have to put it to the members to vote, but I expect they would accept an offer of an 8-10% consolidated (permanent) wage increase,” said union branch chair Jack Falconer.

The teachers formed a branch under the Taiwan Higher Education Union which is comprised of higher education faculty from across Taiwan.

“Most of the contract teachers have to work on Saturday and Sunday”

The teachers’ pay is determined by a 10-point pay scale based on experience, retention and qualifications. While BCTW maintains that teachers’ salaries have increased over the last 20 years, the pay scale itself has not changed.

In the meantime, Taiwan’s minimum wage has almost doubled and tuition fees at BCTW English language centres have risen by 35% since 2016, according to union estimates.

Additionally, teachers on an hourly wage are paid a flat rate of NT$950 (£23.50) which hasn’t changed in 20 years.

“[British Council] maintains that is higher than other schools, but it clearly states in our contract that we have to do an hour and a half of work per hourly payment, so it would be like if you got paid for six hours you would actually be in the office for nine.

“So if you look at it like that, we’re paid less than the other schools in the market and we’re generally much more highly qualified and experienced,” according to Falconer.

British Council Taiwan operates under the British Office in Taipei, running three teaching centres with approximately 55 teachers and 2,000 students from six-year-olds to adults. Teachers come from all over the world, including the UK, Canada, South Africa, America and Taiwan.

The profitable institution is widely regarded in Taipei for the quality of its teaching and is currently expanding from three to four teaching centres.

A large proportion of total income from the teaching centres leaves Taiwan and is added to the British Council’s general surplus to pay managers abroad, said the union.

“Most of the contract teachers have to work on Saturday and Sunday which is another point of contention we want to address … maybe by finding some way where people don’t have to work both days or giving them some type of compensation for doing so.

“British Council haven’t offered us anything regarding that demand. Not yet,” said Falconer.

In Taiwan, unions must go through a minimum collective bargaining period of three months plus an additional government mediation before being granted the right to strike.

The union is calling on the managers at BCTW to return to the negotiating table before it proceeds with the mediation process at the end of April.

The British Council has said it will continue negotiations to settle the dispute and that 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.

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