21 April, 2023On 19 April 2023, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) staged a mass protest and announced two nation-wide strikes on 31 May and in July. Korean metal unions argue that the policies will weaken workers' rights and make it harder to organize and negotiate with employers.
“This is a declaration of war against unions. Government agencies are painting unions as corrupt and violent thugs, trade unionists are red-tagged,"
Said Yoon Jang Hyeok in his address to workers at the mass protest.
Over 10,000 KMWU members met in downtown Seoul where the KMWU president, Yoon Jang Hyeok, urged shopfloor activists to organize a warning strike on 31 May, followed by a national strike in July, in protest to the anti-labour policies passed by the Yoon Suk-Yeol regime.
“The government is pushing a law allowing 69 weekly working hours and derogation of the wage structure, including the minimum wage while giving Chaebols (family-controlled conglomerates) tax cuts and deregulation. The president is blocking the labour law reform needed to protect constitutional trade union rights,”
Jang Hyeok continued.
The KMWU is also calling on the government to reform article 2 and 3 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act (TULRAA), as a necessary step after Korea ratified the ILO Convention 87 and 98 in April 2021.
KMWU insists that the amendment is crucial to expand the definition of a worker and protect subcontracted workers' rights to bargaining with primary employers. Existing provisions providing weak protection for striking workers must also be revised.
Members of parliament have prepared a bill with a watered-down version of the revised articles 2 and 3 of TULRAA. The bill is now passed to a National Assembly committee dominated by the ruling party members. Even if the committee passes the bill, the Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol has announced that he will veto the bill if it is enacted.
KMWU says that although the bill expands the definition of employer, it doesn’t address important aspects like the disruption of the right to strike. The union says fundamental workers’ rights are still not fully adressed, but the bill is a step in the right direction, the fight for the revision of TULRAA will continue.
“IndustriALL Global Union stands in solidarity with Korean unions in the fight against the anti-labour policies and fully supports the general strike. We urge the government to honour its international obligations relating to the right to strike and collective bargaining after the ratification of the two ILO conventions.”
Said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.