Saturday, October 07, 2006

back at it: KGEU, Labour Roadmap, Posco workers sued

My apologies to avid readers for the lack of posts over the last month. I'm back at it now and will be ramping up the posts in the coming weeks. In case you haven't heard or read about them, there are a few big stories from the past month that need some coverage.

Attacks on the KGEU

The first is the government offensive against the Korean Government Employee's Union, a union of civil servants that doesn't agree with the limitations on their labour rights that the government is forcing them to accept in order to have legal recognition. Thus, this union is 'illegal' for the time being and is now undergoing some severe repression. It's important to mention here that it is not just the KGEU that doesn't agree with these limitations but members of the ILO as well, who have criticized the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs for their intervention in labour relations in such a way. Here's the most recent press release from the union, along with a chronology of this month's attacks on KGEU offices everywhere, attacks which are continuing. The KGEU has 140 offices nationwide, over 81 have been shut down as of Sept 23. You can also find the online campaign on the KGEU site.

Labour Relations Road Map

The other major story, and one that has flown slightly under the radar, is the tentative tripartite (really 2.5-ite) agreement between the FKTU, Business, and Government, on the labour relations road map. Basically, they have agreed to postpone the two contentious issues (trade union pluralism, and pay for full-time labour organizers) for three years -- basically this is a setback for union democracy within and between workplaces. This also means that other aspects of the bill may move forward quite quick: expansion of irregular work, etc., without full trade union participation. The FKTU has also begun campaigning for foreign investment by advertising the agreement it strung together with business and government withouth any consent or participation for the larger KCTU. 2 and half-ism seems to have replaced tripartitism, indeed. If some of the other elements of the roadmap are passed, it seems that we will be seeing more and more illegal strikes as the venues for legal trade unionism is made smaller and smaller and people struggle to protect themselves. So far the governements reaction to this has been punitive. For example, it seems that the irregular workers who struck at POSCO in August are being sued for 1.7 million (US), a move which can only lead to more violence if this money is garnished from workers private savings as it has in the past.

The KCTU is promising strikes against the legislation in November, we'll keep you posted...

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