More than a hundred workers belonging to the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) staged a rally this morning in front of the South Korean embassy in Makati to condemn in the strongest terms possible the South Korean government’s dispersal and crack down on organizing activities of the Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) and Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU), affiliates of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).
“The South Korean government’s violent and fascist response to the KGEU and KFCITU’s unrelenting efforts at promoting, defending and realizing their rights completely undermine the universal right of workers everywhere to organize, strike and collectively bargain with employers and capitalists for our just share in the fruits of our labor, ” Josua Mata, APL Secretary General, said.
According to a statement issued by KCTU, police and thugs armed with fire extinguishers, fire-fighting dust, hammers, claw hammers, hammer drills, and power saws, riot police, and hired thugs forcibly entered local union offices, dragging KGEU members and their supporters outside the office, and then finally shutting and sealing the offices like coffins. Many of the members were injured, some were even hospitalised as the police arrested and detained more than 100 unionists, which up to this time are languishing in jails and by the end of the day out of a total 251 local union offices, 81 were completely shut down.
South Korea joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1996 and committed to introduce reforms in laws on industrial relations in line with internationally accepted standards. Unfortunately, according to KCTU, the South Korean government has not even come close in implementing OECD standards. Also, it refuses to implement recommendations of the ILO, which since 2002 has been calling on the government to recognize KGEU as a legitimate TU organization. Instead, the government has continuously branded KGEU and KFCITU as “illegal” and engaging in “criminal activity”.
Recently, the South Korean government proposed a “Roadmap for Industrial Relations Reforms” but irregular workers, who have grown to comprise about 80% of the country’s workforce especially after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, find the terms of this roadmap unacceptable.
“The recent repressive actions of the South Korean government under the Roh Moon Hyun administration have further worsened the plight of the workers in the exercise of their trade union rights and the APL stands in solidarity with the KGEU and KFCITU in asserting that no roadmap to improved industrial relations is possible without the guarantee of the basic rights for workers — to strike, to organize, and to collective bargaining,” Mata said.
“The South Korean government must realize that its policies and attitude towards workers’ unions must not protect the interests of a few, but promote the welfare and genuine well-being of its workers and this can only be done if the country’s laws conform with international standards as set forth by OECD and the ILO,” Mata added.
“The assault to the workers in South Korea is an assault to the workers in other countries like the Philippines where the full exercise of workers right to form unions and redress of grievance have likewise been continuously impeded and curtailed by the laws of the government that in the first place should be the one protecting them,” Mata said.
Lastly, APL pledges its continuing support for the cause of the KGEU, KFCITU, KCTU and other similarly situated workers elsewhere and vow to forge ahead with the struggle towards the realization of all human rights for all workers and oppressed people around the world!