SOKOR Government crackdown on public sector trade unions intensifies

PSI has written to the Korean President, Mr Lee Myung-Bak, strongly condemning the recent violations of trade union rights and is calling on affiliates and the trade union movement to send similar letters of protest to the Korean Government as well as to the Korean Embassies in their countries and to their Foreign Ministries. Since coming into power in February 2008, the Government of Lee Myung-Bak has pursued an agenda of downsizing the public sector and outsourcing public services. This has been marked by a sustained attack on the rights of public sector workers to organise and bargain collectively, including the unilateral suspension or cancellation of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). The Government is also proceeding with the implementation of laws that have been long dormant on the statute books, which would ban employers from paying full time union officials and force a single bargaining channel at enterprise level.
When three civil service unions (the Korean Government Employees Union, the Korean Democratic Government Employees Union and the Court Government Employees’ Union) decided to merge, the Ministry of Labour first tried to ban union activities relating to the ballot and then announced its refusal to acknowledge the newly formed Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU) as a legal trade union. The Government further retaliated by changing the procedures for the collection of union dues from KGEU members, requiring the written consent to those deductions from each member on an annual basis.
On 1st December, the Government ordered police raids on the offices of KGEU and KRWU (Korean Workers Railway Union). Computers, printed documents and other materials were seized from the premises of both unions. Also on 1st December, revisions to the Public Service Regulations came into effect, banning government employees from collectively objecting to government policies, including through issuing public statements, endorsing petitions and participating in protests or assemblies; and from wearing clothing with political slogans. 1st December is also the date on which the KGEU was officially registered as a trade union, affiliated to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Arrest warrants have been issued against the leadership of the KRWU, which is currently out on strike – a strike which has been branded “illegal” by the Government.
In the face of repeated Government attacks, the two national centres, the FKTU (Federation of Korean Trade Unions) and the KCTU are balloting members on a general strike, which would start mid-December.
Government crackdown on public sector trade unions intensifies
Dec 2009