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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Korea: Strike Action Challenges Proposed Free Trade Agreement

Posted to the IUF website 17-Jul-2006

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Some 170,000 workers from the KCTU held a one-day national strike on June 12 to highlight their opposition to the current negotiations for a US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which would radically enhance the rights of transnational investors at the expense of government authority to regulate in the public interest. Government employees, who do not have the right to strike, made collective use of their annual leave to stay away from work, while member federations heeding the strike call included the metal, transport, public and social services, construction, media, hospital, chemical, textile and taxi drivers federations.

Fifty thousand union members and supporters turned out for a mass rally in Seoul, which was attended as well by US trade union representatives who addressed the crowd. Rallies were also held in Ulsan, Busan and Cheongiu.

On June 6, the KCTU and US unions signed a joint statement condemning the proposed trade and investment deal (whose precise contents, though not the general outlines, are shrouded in official secrecy), calling instead for trade negotiations between the two countries to "be accompanied by a process for protecting and strengthening core workers rights, public and social services, food safety and food security, the environment, and public health and education." The unions have agreed to work together for a moratorium on the current talks, a full public assessment of the consequences of the proposed FTA, and an end to the deal to keep secret the documents relating to the negotiations for 3 years after its conclusion.

The full text of the joint union declaration on the US-Korea FTA is available here (in English) on the KCTU website.