Tides of Democracy in South Korea Turning Back!
- Guarantee Trade Union Rights for Precarious Workers!


In the wake of the 1997 Economic Crisis, rapid casualization of the work force ensued so that precarious workers (contract; dispatched; part-time; and “specially-employed” otherwise known as self-employed, workers) have become the majority of the South Korean work force. According to the Korean National Statistical Office, in 2005, at least 56% of the entire earning workforce was precarious workers. 70% of women workers are precarious workers. Despite performing the same type of work as permanent workers, precarious workers are paid less, work longer hours, and have little or no benefits. The South Korean government has failed to uphold existing labour laws in recognizing and ensuring that precarious workers, whose employment relationship is often “disguised”or“ triangular”have the right to exercise basic trade union rights such as the right to organize, collective bargaining, and engage in collective actions such as strikes.

What are "Specially Employed" Workers?

Prior to the 1997 Economic Crisis, the majority of Remicon (ready-mixed cement), Dump, and Cargo Truck drivers were permanent workers directly employed by construction and transportation companies. However, due to the crisis,flexiblization policies were implemented and these workers were “encouraged”to purchase the company’s trucks and become “self-employed”workers by registering as individual entrepreneurs. Under this new category of“ self-employed”work force, these workers were considered to be outside the scope of South Korean labour laws. Hence the employers had no obligation to pay social benefits such as over time and holiday pay. In addition, since these workers were now excluded from the application of minimum standard of labour laws, they are extremely vulnerable to dismissals, forced to sign unfair and inadequate employment contracts, and work long hours under extreme conditions.

Even though these workers are not in a traditional employeremployee industrial relationship based in a single work site, these workers are in fact employees under the framework of a “disguised employment industrial relationship.”The employer, construction and transportation companies, have the ultimate authority to unilaterally determine the working conditions, wages, and hours of Remicon, Dump, and Cargo truck drivers. Furthermore, since these workers are responsible for the maintenance of their vehicles, the operational costs such as insurance, repair bills, and rising fuel costs are their responsibility. Thus, despite working to 12 to 14 hours shifts in the end their profit margin is minimal.

Organizing for Their Rights

In an effort to ensure their basic rights and“ live like a human being,”Remicon, Dump, and Cargo truck drivers began to organize. In 2000, Remicon truck drivers formed the Korean Construction Transport Workers Union (KCTWU). The union was granted union certification by the Ministry of Labour that same year. In 2005, the KCTWU and several construction trade unions representing tower crane operators, construction site workers, and electricians, established an industry wide union, the Korean Construction Workers Union.

In 2002, Cargo truck drivers founded the Korean Cargo Transportation Workers Federation (KCTWF). Due to various industrial actions and annual strikes, the Federation successfully negotiated agreements increasing contract wages and union recognition. In December 2006, the KCTWF along with other transportation unions representing workers in Various transportation fields such as railway, air, bus, and taxi launched an industry-wide union, Korean Transport Workers Union (KTWU) under the guidelines of the Trade Union Labour Relations and Adjustment act (TULRAA). The union was granted trade union certification by the Ministry of Labour in February 2007.
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admin Aug 05, 2009 Hits 100846

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admin Jul 30, 2009 Hits 102608

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admin Jul 30, 2009 Hits 110911

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admin Jul 30, 2009 Hits 97651

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admin Jul 30, 2009 Hits 102849

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admin Jul 22, 2009 Hits 131180

( For full photos, please open the attached. Below are the some photos among them.) Additional Materials (Photos) Supporting Concerns for Safety of Person and Rights of striking Ssangyong Motor workers 22 July 2009 Update - New photos show excessive use of force by police...

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admin Jul 22, 2009 Hits 99164

[Press Statement on General Strike] KCTU Initiates General Strike and Sit-In Protest! Stop police suppression of Ssangyong Motors strike! Stop retrogressive revisions to labour and media laws! The KCTU announces that all affiliate unions will go on general strike as of 22n...

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admin Jul 21, 2009 Hits 91381

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Tides of Democracy in South Korea Turning Back!

admin Jul 09, 2009 Hits 190658

Tides of Democracy in South Korea Turning Back! - Guarantee Trade Union Rights for Precarious Workers! In the wake of the 1997 Economic Crisis, rapid casualization of the work force ensued so that precarious workers (contract; dispatched; part-time; and “specially-employed” otherw...

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admin May 26, 2009 Hits 240297

Stop suppressing democracy and basic labor rights right now The KCTU’s position over the May 16th massive arrest Democracy and human rights are in retreat in South Korea. With extreme violent acts, the Korean government and the police are tramping upon democracy, human r...

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