The national congress of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions(KCTU) resolved to call a general strike against the government’s comprehensive policy package to attack working and living conditions for all workers. In a nation wide ballot carried out on March 21~April 8, 84.35% of all voters were in favor of going on a general strike. On April 24, striking workers will have rallies in 20 different cities. On May 1, 100,000 workers will gather in Seoul.
Abolish the retrogressive ‘labour market reform’!
Stop the Public Pension Cuts! Improve National Pension System!
KWR10,000 (per hour) for Minimum Wage!
Fundamental Labour Rights for All!
The era of zero percent growth of the real wage?
As the impact of the global economic crisis remains, the economic outlook of Korea is so negative as the finance minister warns of deflation risk. While Korea ranked top in taxation inequality among OECD countries due to the former government’s policy of ‘more tax from the poor and less tax from the rich’ and the 4th in income inequality, the real wage growth rate has decreased for the last 6 quarters successively. (It was 3.4 percent in the second quarter of 2003 and 0.08 percent in the third quarter of 2014.) The total number of the unemployed is 4,456,000, and the real unemployment rate is 15.8 percent. The poverty rate among the elderly is 48 percent, which means 1 out of 2 among those who are 65 years or older is living in poverty. More than 50 percent of the whole working population is in a precarious situation in terms of employment, and they are paid half of the average wage and not eligible for social security.
Wages, employment and social security of all workers are under attack
Recently, social polarization on a global scale has been pointed out as a key obstacle to economic growth. Even the major fora and financial institutions such as the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, Davos Forum, IMF and OECD suggest tackling income inequality as a key priority. However, the Park Geun-hye government is taking an opposite direction and all of its policies are focusing on giving privilege to the conglomerates and stimulating the real estate market, which would result in the institutionalization of restructuring, decreases in wages and the expansion of employment insecurity.
Comprehensive Measures for Non-Regular Workers, which is a major part of the ‘labour market reform plan’ and claimed by the government as a solution to various problems with so-called ‘dual structure of labour market, is in fact a comprehensive neoliberal labour policy attacking wages, employment and trade union rights of all workers. Using the above mentioned title, the government is laying the blame on the ‘over-protected regular workers’ or ‘vested interests of organized workers’, instead of the ‘inheritance and unequal distribution of wealth by the conglomerates’ for the income & social inequality.
<Key points of the government led ‘Labour-Market Reform>
The government's unilateral push for Labour Market Reforms
In the New Year’s address of 2015, President Park emphasized “Labour Market Reform is not optional but essential for the survival of Korean economy”. She also urged the “Special Committee on Structural Reforms of the Labour Market” in the Economic and Social Development Commission (ESCD) to agree on the government’ plan within March 2015. Without participation by the KCTU, the Special Committee [composed of FKTU, KEF and the government] were convened several times but failed to draw an agreed conclusion. Just a day after the FKTU walked out of the negotiation finding there is no point of compromise, the government announced that it will unilaterally pursue the retrogressive amendment of related labour laws in the interim session of the National Assembly in April. Moreover, the Ministry of Employment and Labour declared that it will push for a variety of guidelines for collective bargaining, enforcement decree of the laws, and directives in order to accomplish the plan at every workplace. This shows that the government had no intention to listen to the workers' voice from the beginning.
The Right to Strike is an internationally protected fundamental right!
In Korea, the right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution. However, in practice, as the purposes, methods, procedure, and subject are excessively regulated, it is almost impossible for workers to strike legally. Union leaders and members quickly face criminal sanction, a lawsuit for compensation for damage, and disciplinary measures including dismissal. International support and solidarity have played a crucial role for Korean workers to exercise their fundamental rights.