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Solidarity Call for February 25 People’s Strike in Korea-Solidarity Needed Globally & SF
There has been an international call for action in support of Korean workers who are organizing a general strike on Feb 25. There will be a solidarity action for the Korean workers and people at the Korean Consulate in San Francisco on Feb 25 at 4:00 PM a 3500 Clay St./Laurel in San Francisco.
Solidarity Call for the February 25 People’s Strike in Korea-Solidarity Needed Globally
On Feb 25, 2014, one year after the Park Government’s inauguration, workers and people in Korea go on a nation-wide strike under the slogan “After one year under Park’s Government, We cannot stand it anymore!” For the last one year, human and trade union rights have been seriously attacked and the democracy in the country has been deeply undermined. Almost all of public commitments made by President Park during her election campaign have been broken unilaterally during her first year. Ironically, this made social movements much more united. KCTU, together with broader social movements including organisaions of peasants, the urban poors, small shop keepers, students, youth, etc jointly established the “Organising Committee of Feb 25 People’s Strike” as a coordination body.
On this day, workers and citizens in every place will gather in Seoul and other major cities in each province to raise the common demand of all the people. Strikes, rally, protest actions are easily criminalized in the country, and support and solidarity from international trade union movement are needed.
We invited you to show your solidarity for workers and peoples in Korea by organizing a demonstration in front of Korean embassy in your country at any time you can, but before the Feb 25 People’s Strike and/or sending a protest letter to the Korean government. You can also send your photos with the key slogans.
Stop repression on Union movements!
Respect Fundament Labour Rights!
Honour your international commitment to respect international labour standard!
Recognise KGEU and KTU!
Release all the imprisoned trade union leaders!
Stop the outrageous practice of damage claims against striking workers!
Stop public sector privatization and public pension cuts!
Background of the Feb 25 People’s Strike
1. Trade Union Rights under the Park Government
- The Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU), which represents 140,000 public officials and devote itself to ensure that all citizens have access to quality public services, denied its legal status. The government returned the union’s establishment report on the ground that it allows union membership of 135 dismissed workers who lost their position related to their union activities.
- With the reason, Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) was deregistered when it rejected the government’s recommendation to exclude dismissed workers from its membership. The union has been protested the governments’ competition oriented education policy and distortion of the country’s history to glamorize the military dictatorship and Japanese colonialism.
- 4 leaders of Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers (KPTU)-affiliated Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU), who led a 23-day-long strike against railway privatisaion in December are now imprisoned. Disciplinary actions (likely to include over a hundred dismissals) against KRWU members and officers who participated in the strike will be announced soon and the union's bank account has been frozen in relation to a claims for damages suit.
- As a candidate PARK Geun-Hye promised a parliamentary investigation into mass dismissals at Ssangyong Motor and the accounting fraud that justified it. But after her election, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) Ssangyong Motor Branch Chair was thrown in prison for protesting the tearing down of the workers’ protest tent remembering the 24 Ssangyong Motor dead workers and family members. Although the Seoul High Court ruled on 7 February 2014 that Ssangyong Motor’s accounts were falsified and the mass dismissals unjustified, instead the Korean government is joining up with Mahindra/Ssangyong Motor and their insurance companies to sue the workers and the KMWU for strike damages claims of 15.8 billion KRW (about 15.8 million USD).
- Global Korean firms like Samsung profess to a “no union” corporate policy, leaving workers for Samsung Electronics Service struggling to get by on piece-rate commission wages, and having to fight the world’s largest IT company for modest demands such as living wages and union recognition.
- Precarious workers of the KMWU Hyundai Motors Ulsan Irregular Workers’ Local were ordered to pay a record 9 billion KRW (9 million USD) to the Hyundai Motor Company for “damages” to compensate the company’s potential and actual losses from work stoppages asking for wage increases and calling on Hyundai Motor to accept the historic Supreme Court ruling recognizing a direct employment relationship with Hyundai Motor. The union local chair who led the strike in now in prison and over a hundred union members fired for that strike seek reinstatement.
- In total, 15 union leaders, including the above-mentioned are imprisoned in relation to their union activities. Almost of them are charged under the article 314 of the Penal Code, “Obstruction of Business”. (see the attached)
- Apart from the criminal charge, unions and/or individual union leaders/members are facing damages lawsuit in an astronomical amount. Employers try to destroy unions by removing their leaders in one hand and by bankrupting them in the other hand. Lawsuits against individual workers in an amount that no one could pay have led in some cases to suicide. Even worse, this outrageous practice is exported to the countries where Korean multinationals are operating, i.e Cambodia. (see the attached)
- The KCTU office was illegally raided by the police. On December 22, 2013, without a search warrant the police unlawfully and forcibly pushed into the union headquarters building to execute unjust arrest warrants against KRWU leaders, destroying union property in the process. Police indiscriminately arrested protestors outside, using pepper spray. In total, 138 were arrested including the General Secretary of the KCTU and other 2 central leaders, and the President of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), the Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU) and …s.
- On the Contrary, employers of YPR, Valeo, Bosch, Continental, etc, where the Ministry of Employment and Labour found the employers’ union busting, has not been charged or acquitted.
- The government is using public institution debt as an excuse to attack public sector workers. Under the pretext of ‘normalizing’ public institution management, the government is attempting to unilaterally revise collective bargaining agreements and weaken public sector workers’ benefits and rights.
2. Annulment of the election pledges
As soon as President Park took office, she unilaterally canceled almost all of her election pledges on social protection & security, and labour relations, including
- Parliamentary investigation into illegitimate mass dismissals at Ssangyong Motors (Seoul High Court ruled on 7 February 2014that the mass dismissals were invalid.)
- Increase Basic Elderly Pension Benefits
- Reduction University Tuition Fees by half
- Free medical treatment for 4 major severe diseases
No privatisaion in key public services
Now the government is promoting privatization in public services including railway, healthcare, education, energy etc. and weakening the national pension and welfare system.
3. Democracy at risk
- A number of state agencies extensively and illegally intervened during this last presidential election. It was revealed that several state agencies including the National Intelligence Service(NIS), Cyber Command, Ministry of Security and Public Administration, Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Unification, and Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs as well as government funded organisations such as Korea Veterans Association intentionally created negative public opinion on the Internet by posting several articles and retweeting comments that slandered opposition party candidates during the election.
- Even after the illegal intervention in the elections by the state agencies was revealed, the persecutors are not conducting a transparent and independent investigation on this case and political pressures are imposed by the current government in a way to interrupt any investigation.
- Civil society organisations of the Republic of Korea have continued to hold a series of demonstrations calling for a transparent investigation and a fact finding mission on this matter, but the Presidential Office, who is responsible for this matter, has ignored this call from the people.
- In order to turn public eyes away, the prosecution launched investigation against the KGEU and the KTU according to a false accusation by a far-right wing organization that the unions intervened in the election. In the name of investigation, the prosecution seized and searched the unions’ computer server and all the personal information of its members.
2/16/14 TWSC Statement On Korean General Strike And Fight To Defend KRWU
Solidarity with the Korean General Strike!
Defend the Korean Railway Workers Union!
Support The Struggle Against Privatization of KORAIL!
In a vicious attack on the fundamental trade union rights of the Korean labor movement, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in December, dispatched a battalion of some 5,000 police to surround and launch an assault on the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU) in order to arrest the leadership of the KRWU. Unable to find them, police arrested over 100 union members and the government is preparing to sue workers individually.
The Korean railway workers are members of the Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU). They’ve been opposing the privatization of the national railway, which would not only threaten the jobs of railway workers but also threaten the health and safety of the workers and the public. The Korean government action against the railway workers is not an isolated case. The Park government and its predecessors have repressed teachers and other public workers for organizing unions. They’ve passed laws that make workers personally liable to lawsuits if their union goes on strike because they say strikes “obstruct business”. But what about the workers’ right to strike because businesses don’t provide safe working conditions, decent social benefits and a living wage? Government-imposed fines have led to the bankruptcy of large numbers of workers and even suicides.
This effort to destroy the Korean labor movement is backed by the US government. Both Democrat and Republican administrations, through so-called “free trade agreements” have been forcing privatization and deregulation internationally against the working class, resulting in unions being busted.
For example, the South Korean government with the cajoling of the US government is also pushing forward with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which would privatize the national healthcare system of Korea and force further deregulation of the Korean economy harming workers and the public. The Park regime is attempting to bust the KRWU to pave the way for the TPP. These capitalist economic policies pushed by the IMF and World Bank and backed by multi-nationals have cut workers’ social benefits, public services and destroyed
unions around the world. To enforce these repressive and exploitative programs, capitalist governments are pushing further militarization of the Korean peninsula for the encirclement of China.
Transit workers in the San Francisco Bay Area represented by the ATU, SEIU, AFSCME and other unions were under assault recently. Union busters have been hired to break their unions and lay the basis to privatize the public transit system in the Bay Area and around the country. Veolia and other multi-national corporations have their eyes on buying a privatized KORAIL for greater profits. This will only harm the Korean railroad workers and the people of Korea.
We stand with the Korean railway workers and the Korean working class for the right to strike against the privatization. We support the 2/25/2014 KCTU general strike to challenge the Korean President Park Geun-hye and her anti-labor union busting government.
The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee has helped organize labor struggles in the Bay Area including on the docks. We understand that a victory for Korean workers is victory for all of us! Same struggle same fight!
Today, in solidarity with the KRWU-KPTU and the KCTU, we demand:
* Immediate release of all jailed trade unionists
in Korea! No reprisals! Reinstate all fired
* Immediate halt of all lawsuits against trade
unionists! Drop the fines!
* Defend the right of Korean railway workers
to strike against privatization of the KORAIL
* Down with the Park Geun-Hye government!
Workers to power!
* Solidarity with the struggle against the building of a military base in Jeju Island, establishing a US military base to threaten China and North Korea!
* Smash the National Security Laws used to suppress democratic rights, free speech and the right to form a working class party.
(2/16/2014) Initiated by The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (http://www.transportworkers.org)
San Francisco Labor Council Resolution to Support Korean Railway Workers & KCTU Strike against Privatization And Repression and to Oppose Rail Privatization & Support General Strike
Whereas, the Korean Railway Workers Union have opposed the privatization of KORAIL, the Korean public railway system; and
Whereas, the KRWU went on strike on December 9th to stop this privatization; and
Whereas, the Korea government fired over 4,000 members of the KRWU and ordered the arrest of the leadership of the union; and
Whereas, the Korean government without a warrant raided the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions KCTU on December 22, 2013 and arrested 138 trade unionists; and
Whereas, the strikers voted to return to work on December 31 with a promise that there would be a government legislative review of the privatization process; however, the government is still arresting union leaders and threatening to sue union members personally for damages that occurred during their strike; and
Whereas Korean public workers and public education teachers face laws preventing them from organizing and having basic union rights; and
Whereas, trade union leaders of the Korean Railway Workers Union have been jailed by the government; and
Whereas, the KRWU and KCTU have called for support and solidarity actions from trade unionists throughout the world; and
Whereas, the ITF and unions throughout the world have called on the Korean government to release the jailed trade unionists, to stop the attacks on the KRWU and to end the plans to privatize the KORAIL system; and
Whereas, US workers also face attacks on democratic labor rights, including their right to strike, and the continuing practice of privatizing and outsourcing jobs throughout the economy; and
Whereas, the Korean Confederation of Unions KCTU has called for a national strike on Feb 25, 2014 and seeks international support for their struggle; and
Whereas, the fight against privatization and deregulation is connected to US labor's struggle against the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements that weaken labor in the US and globally; and
Whereas, at the January 17 solidarity rally at the San Francisco Korean Consulate, trade unionists including members of the San Francisco Labor Council who were peacefully rallying for the Korean Railway Workers Union were assaulted by a protest organized by the Korean government; and
Whereas the right to peaceful assembly both in the US and Korea must be defended as a labor and human right,
Therefore be it Resolved this Council supports and will mobilize our affiliates for a lobby of the Korean Consulate in San Francisco on Feb 25 at 4:00 PM at 3500 Clay St. San Francisco and calls on the Korean government to end their attacks on the democratic labor rights of Korean railway workers and the labor movement, to end the privatization of KORAIL and calls for the release of all jailed trade unionists and the elimination of the law that allows Korean workers to be sued for taking strike action and,
Be it Finally Resolved this Council will write a letter to the Korean Consulate with a copy to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions KCTU.
Submitted by Rodger Scott, AFT Local 2121, and adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council on February 10, 2014.
OPEIU 3 AFL-CIO 11
The Korean government has jailed the leaders of the Korean Railway Workers and is pushing ahead to privatize the railroads and bust the KRWU union
The entire labor movement in Korea is united against privatization of the railways.