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Korea: Struggle Continues Against Proposed Laws to Encourage Casualization

Posted to the IUF website 04-May-2005

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Korean unions mobilize to 'Strike A Blow Against Casual Employment!'

The Presidents of Korea's two national trade union centers KCTU and FKTU ended their 12-day hunger strike on the morning of May 3 when legislators decided to postpone until June enactment of two bills designed to facilitate the use of casual labour. The two union leaders' action was the first joint hunger strike by the two organizations, a clear indication that halting further casualization has become labour's highest priority in a country where "irregular" workers now account for some 60 percent of the workforce. As a result of the legislative postponement the unions cancelled their planned national strike over the issue.

Tripartite negotiations had been deadlocked over the unions' insistence on the principle of equal pay for equal work, strict definition of the circumstances under which fixed and short-term contract workers may be hired and a limitation of the "short-term" category to a maximum of one year. The employer groups represented in the Tripartite Commission categorically rejected a report by the National Human Rights Commission which criticized the proposed legislation as harmful to the rights of workers. The Commission's report was the product of a 2-year taskforce study on irregular workers which reviewed their situation in the light of the UN�s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ILO conventions and the Korean Constitution, which guarantees the right to equal treatment.

May Day in Cheonju City: riot police use shields to attack Hynix-Magnachip casual workers on strike for regular employment status

Union May Day demonstrations focused heavily on the conflict over the bills, whose importance was highlighted by violent riot police attacks the previous day on irregular workers on strike at Hynix-Magnachip Semiconductor in Cheongju City (Chungbuk Province) as well as the Chungbuk May Day rally, and a May Day action by irregular construction workers who climbed an oil refinery tower to hang their union flag and call for the company (SK Construction) to come to the bargaining table. The construction day labourers, members of an irregular workers union in Ulsan, have been on strike since March 18 for an 8-hour work day, paid holidays, the minimal safety equipment, a designated place to eat and a designated place to change clothes. Despite the legal nature of the strike, 12 workers have been jailed and 100 workers arrested since the struggle began.