[Photo by Work and World]
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions calls on all trade unions to urgently write to the Korean Government to take necessary measures that meets the demands of social dialogue in order to explore reasonable solution demanded by Korean Railway Workers' Union instead of using riot police force against striking workers.
On June 28th, the government crushed the strike of rail workers by sending riot police to sit-in sites shortly after rail workers embarked upon the strike for the abolition of a bill on railway privatisation. Additionally KCTU would like to emphasize that the government denied any official dialogue which Korean Railway Workers' Union had demanded before launching the strike.
However, the stance of government is still insincere until now while the strike is going on. After a meeting of top government officials related to dealing with the strike on the 29th June, Kim Jin-pyo, deputy prime minister for economic affairs and minister of finance and economy said that "There is no further room for dialogue and compromise at the moment because most of the demands from the railway workers have been met". In addition to this, the government officials reiterated that the railway workers' strike was illegal because they have no right to intervene in a government policy on restructuring the railway sector. And finally the special Session of National Assembly on the 30th June has just passed the law despite broad opposition of workers.
Despite this difficult condition of brutal suppression and government's unilateral stance, railway workers are going on strike and the number of unionists who is joining is increasing. Moreover most unionists who were arrested in sit-in sites on 28th June are joining again after the release from the police. This means that striking workers will not be subjected to the government's threat of legal actions against them including dismissal, detention unless the government take necessary measures that meets the demands of social dialogue called for by Korean Railway Workers' Union. KCTU would like to remind all trade unions and world people that it is the government that broke up the trade union-government agreement made on the 20th April.(Please see another article, "Why Korean Railway workers embarked upon a strike?" posted on KCTU website concerning this.)
In conclusion, KCTU demands that :
- the government resume a dialogue immediately with trade union to explore a reasonable resolution,
- the law on the reform of railway construction which has been just passed in special Assembly session should be repealed
- Choi Jong-chan, minister of Ministry of Construction and Transportation, should resign his office who caused this great disturbance of railway by ignoring the demands of trade union completely.
Once again, KCTU are calling for all trade unions to urgently write to the Korean government demanding an immediate dialogue with trade union and an abide-by of internationally-recognised labour rights including right to strike.
You can send your letters of protest by fax to President Roh Moo-Hyun at the Blue House(fax : 82-2-770-0202) or email at email@example.com. Also sending to Minister of Labour Kwon Ki-Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org or Fax: +82-2-504-6708. (Below is a sample letter of protest) Please send a copy to the KCTU(fax : 82-2-2635-1134) or email to email@example.com.
With much appreciation for your solidarity
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Dear Mr. President,
Use of Police Force against Striking Workers
(Your organisation) would like to express its deep concern over use of force by police against striking railway workers on the 28th April and further decision that the government will take stern legal actions against organisers and active participants of the railway strike, whether or not they decide to end the strike. This police raid was committed in response to strike action taken by Korean Railway Workers' Union(KRWU) calling for the abolition of a bill on railroad privatisation with no social dialogue and agreement.
Of even deeper concern and frustration is the tendency that the government recently resorts to force in dealing with labour actions such as issue of arrest warrants to the leadership of Korean Teachers' Union(KTU) due to its strike against NEIS(National Education Information System).
This is a grave violation of trade union rights and is not part of conscious government policy. I urge you to stop use of force in dealing with labour disputes immediately and take necessary measures that meets the demands of social dialogue in order to explore reasonable solution demanded by Korean Railway Workers' Union.