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Korea: General Strike Against Proposed Laws Encouraging Casualization

Posted to the IUF website 02-Mar-2006

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KCTU women members on casual contracts rally in the rain to launch general strike - February 28, 2006

On February 28, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) called on its member unions to go on general strike, beginning with an afternoon series of mass labour rallies, in response to new moves by the ruling party to hasten the enactment of legislation which would facilitate and widen the use of casual labour.

The two bills (named "Irregular Worker Protection Laws") were pushed through by the Environmental and Labour Issues Committee of the National Assembly on the evening of February 27 and are now awaiting ratification. The KCTU is calling for an indefinite general strike if the government submits the bills to the National Assembly plenary.

The ruling party has been trying to enact the bills since November 2004, but has met fierce resistance from the 2 national trade union confederations, forcing numerous postponements of parliamentary discussion. Over this period, the use of casual labour has become even more widespread, with an estimated 8.4 million workers (of a total workforce of 15 million) now employed on a non-permanent, "irregular" basis. Successive versions of the draft laws have progressively watered down the already inadequate worker protection measures which are behind the unions' drive to block the bills.

As of March 2, about 180,000 KCTU union members have gone on strike. Auto production has been halted at Hyundai, Kia Motors, GM-Daewoo and Ssangyong Motors. The raiilway union strike has dramatically curtailed freight and passenger traffic. About 5700 members of the Korean Federation of Private Services Workers´┐Ż Unions (KFSU), the IUF affiliate organizing hotel workers and golf caddies, have joined the strike, as have food workers at various sites throughout the country.