Monday, July 04, 2005

Some labor news

From the Korea Herald:

Flurry of labor strikes looms this week

With umbrella labor groups campaigning to oust the government's labor policymaking lineup, Korea's seasonal
wave of strikes and boycotts, or the so-called summer strife, is expected to hit the nation this week, creating a flurry of labor unrest in key industries. Setting the stage for the July offensive, at the forefront was a group of hospital workers who voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to authorize a walkout for Friday.

The Korean Health and Medical Workers Union, representing about 40,000 workers at more than 100 hospitals nationwide, is demanding that individual hospital managements form a counterpart body to collectively negotiate with the trade union and implement the previously agreed measures such as new recruits for the five-day workweek system. Workers affiliated with the Korean Metal Workers Union are also gearing up for collective action, demanding a hike in minimum pay and irregular workers' right to organize. The union has earlier decided to stage 4-hour stoppages twice on Wednesday and Friday if no agreement is reached during the upcoming round of negotiations tomorrow.

Pilots at both the Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have threatened similar action in the near future. In what they say is a warning strike, unionized pilots at Asiana are set to stay away from their jobs for 24 hours from 1 a.m. Tuesday. All Asiana flights departing Incheon and Kimpo airports during the planned striking hours will have to be cancelled, union officials insisted. However, Korean Air union has decided not to join the stoppage but instead will carry out a work-to-rule campaign.

Pilots request to extend the retirement age from 55 to 59 and shorten the flight hours. Amid waves of labor unrest in major workplaces expected this week, the largest umbrella labor group of Federation of Korean Trade Unions, which called on its 820,000 members to join an indefinite general strike from Thursday, is pressuring the current administration to fire Labor Minister Kim Dae-hwan and other labor officials.

The second largest Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has joined FKTU on the campaign. At the core of the group's discontent is the government-pushed labor reform package which is deadlocked in the National Assembly and the tragic death last month of a labor leader during a rally for workers' rights. The FKTU strike is expected to be punctuated by several marches and rallies nationwide in which thousands or tens of thousands from all over the country are expected to turn up.


  1. Just out of curiosity: I understood that many of the Asiana pilots were non-Korean, largely of East-European origin. I wonder whether they are unionised and in the same union as the Korean pilots.

  2. I forget the ratio but I think its 2:1 or 1:2. Possibly the latter.

    I think some of the foreign pilots are not unionized for use in strikes and others are in the union. Thing is, Korean labour law actually makes it difficult to discriminate by nationality of worker, because it isn't in the labor code, so a worker is a worker, somewhat. Actually if you give the labour standards law, the constitution and some of the other important legislation a read it sounds like korean workers actually enjoy some pretty good rights, but there are a number of exceptions that disallow workers from organizing.

    Now, undocumented workers can't easily enforce any of these rights, but as far as I know, its fine to join, or even in one case I know, start, a union as a foreigner. Not that this may last, and acknowledging that there are many ways to prevent foreigners from doing so. the case I know was of an english teacher who unionized his school, the school eventually closed down...

    Hope that answers the question.