Support Korean striking railway workers facing crackdown
This Christmas will see Korean workers on the barricades. The Korean government escalated its crackdown against striking members of the Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU) this weekend, with police raiding KRWU’s offices and arresting over 100 workers. In response the KCTU union federation to which KRWU belongs has called a general strike which could lead to almost 700, 000 workers taking action.
KRWU has been on strike since December 9 over unpopular rail restructuring plans. Over 8000 striking workers have so far been dismissed from their jobs and hundreds of temporary rail workers hired. This has lead to a dangerous decline in safety standards with at least one fatality recorded.
Unions around the world have been quick to condemn this attack on railway workers’ right to strike – including the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Transport Federation and the TUC which wrote to the Korean Ambassador in London last week.
You can add your voice to the protests by signing the Labourstart action here.
The Korean President Park Geun-hye is still refusing to negotiate with KRWU. Yet the railway workers only decided to take strike action because the Korean government has consistently refused to enter into social dialogue.
This represents another worrying example of the Korean government’s failure to recognise the right of workers to freedom of association. Only two months ago the TUC expressed its concern that the Korean Teachers Union had been derecognised. Earlier in the year, the ILO made two urgent interventions about threats to the status of the KTU and the government refusing to recognise the Korean Government Workers Union (KGWU).
The denial of KRWU workers’ right to strike undermines the Republic of Korea’s obligations to international labour standards. The right to freedom of association and collective bargaining are core conventions of the ILO which the Republic of Korea is bound as a member of the ILO to uphold and affirmed it would commit to and effectively implement as part of its signing of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement in 2010.
In 1996, the Republic of Korea also made a commitment upon its entry to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “to reform existing laws on industrial relations in line with internationally accepted standards, including those concerning basic rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining.”
The events of the weekend show that the Korean government is falling far short of these commitments – please help spread the word and show the Korean railway they are not alone in their struggle this Christmas.