5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Korea, Republic of

The ITUC affiliates in the Republic of Korea are the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

In practice

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Unions by-passed during introduction of measures to reduce older workers’ pay31-05-2016

On 7 May 2015, the government announced a ‘recommendation’ for the introduction of a ‘wage peak’ system (which cuts the wages of older workers) in all public institutions. Those institutions that didn’t introduce the system would have pay increases lowered and be given lower scores in yearly management evaluations.

Because the introduction of the wage peak system has a negative impact on workers, by reducing their pay, both the law and collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreements require employers to get approval from the representative union or the majority of employees (if the union doesn’t represent a majority) first. These provisions were violated in several cases.

The Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology and its affiliated Korea Polar Research Institute and the Korea Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering, collected individual consent forms from workers, but did not get agreement from the unions despite the fact that the unions represent a majority of the workers at these institutions. In several hospitals where the unions do not represent a majority of the workers, the wage peak system was introduced by the board of directors without seeking agreement from the majority of workers.

The unions felt that blame lay with both the government (Ministry of Strategy and Finance) and the heads of public institutions for forcing the introduction of the wage peak system through illegal means. The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) responded throughout 2015 with protest actions. The KPTU has also lodged legal complaints against individual public institutions with the Ministry of Labour, but the cases have been delayed.

Strike undermined by hiring of replacement labour30-06-2015

Ceva Logistics Korea hired replacement labour during a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
by the Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU). The legal strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
began on 22 June 2015 to demand an end to discrimination against union members and officers and the fulfilment of past agreements on conditions and bonus pay. It ended on 18 August when an agreement was reached.

Before the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
even began, the Ceva Logistics management contacted one of its subcontracting companies normally only responsible for a small portion of night time work to provide workers take over the work of the employees on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. The subcontractor took over as much as 75 per cent of Ceva’s work while the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was going on, in clear violation of the Trade Union and Labour Relations and Adjustment Act. The company also illegally used union members’ names and email addresses to carry out business with clients while the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was going on.

The union pressed charges against the employer but withdrew them after an agreement was reached with the company. Separately the Ministry of Labour is carrying out an investigation into the use of replacement workers, but no conclusions had been reached at the time of writing.

Refusal to negotiate change in status29-02-2016

In February 2016 the Sucheon plant of the Hyundai Steel Co. rejected a request by contract workers to negotiate changing their status to permanent employees, despite a ruling by the Suncheon branch of the Gwangju Regional Court that Hyundai Steel Co. should recognise all those who had worked for it for over two years as regular employees. Their court case had begun back in 2011.

Employer imposes choice of union on construction workers 08-06-2016

Three subcontractors (Geumhwa PSC, Jeongho Enc. and Beomjin Enc.) of the general contractor Daewoo Construction & Engineering forced workers at the Pocheon Combined Fire Plant construction project site to join the Korean Construction & Plant Construction Industry Trade Union, an industry-level union competing with the Korean Plant Construction Workers’ Union affiliated to the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU). The subcontractors were found to have paid union dues on behalf of the workers. Once the new union outnumbered the earlier union, the subcontractors separated the construction project as a bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
so that the new union became a representative bargaining union.

Discrimination against metalworkers’ union at car factory08-06-2016

The Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) has been fighting discrimination at Yoosung Enterprise Co., Ltd. for over five years. A strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in 2011 over the company’s refusal to implement the collective agreement led to a temporary closure, and pressure on workers to leave the KMWU and form a yellow union yellow union A union set up and/or controlled by the employer to prevent the establishment of a genuine trade union. . Since the creation of the new union, the company has blatantly discriminated in its favour. Negotiations with the KMWU dating from 2011 were never concluded, because management tabled unacceptable terms, while agreement was quickly reached with the new union. KMWU members have been deprived of annual wage inceases as a result. In addition to favouring the new union in the bargaining process, the company has shown discrimination in terms of guaranteeing union activities (granting of time-off, providing union offices and facilities and etc.) and has even targeted individual unionised workers, for example in personal evaluations, giving or withholding opportunities for overtime work etc. The company has also paid the expenses for social gatherings and outings to a luxury bar for the new union.

Investigations by the Ministry of Labour and the Public Prosecutor have shown that the company’s main contractor, Hyundai Motors, is behind the union busting union busting Attempts by an employer to prevent the establishment of a trade union or remove an existing union, e.g. by firing union members, challenging unions in court, or by forming a yellow union. , even setting targets and deadlines. It has taken a long time for the case to come to court, and it was still before the court at the time of writing.

Anti-union discrimination at electrical systems factory31-12-2015

In 2015 the regional labour committee found Valeo Electrical Systems Korea guilty of unfair labour practices. Management had sought to get rid of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) at the factory, outsourcing outsourcing See contracting-out jobs, and hiring thugs to threaten union members. Those who insisted on maintaining their union membership found they were given the lowest scores in the annual performance evaluation, and were again urged to withdraw from the KMWU. Several did then leave the union, because it was impacting on their financial situation.

Interference in union ballot31-03-2016

In March 2016 the Ministry of the Interior and the Gwangju City Council warned that a vote to be held by the Gwangju Metropolitan City Employees Union (GMCEU) was illegal and that anyone attending the assembly at which the vote was due to take place would be punished. The GMCEU had called the vote to change its status, and become a branch of the Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) which the government refuses to recognise. The vote was obstructed and charges were brought against ten union officials.

Union registration refused, website blocked31-05-2016

By May 2016 the Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU) had still not been registered. It was first denied registration the Ministry of Employment and Labour (MoEL) in 2013, owing to a provision in its bylaws recognising the union membership of dismissed workers. KGEU members are not able to access to the union’s website at the workplace as all the government agencies have blocked it. This makes it extremely difficult for the union members to share information about union activity.

Violence and union busting15-06-2015

Members of the Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU) working at the KB Auto Tech Chungnam Asan plant were subject to violent attacks by fellow employees hired to break up their union. The company hired 58 new employees, all former army or police officers, at the end of 2014. They were encouraged by the company to bust the union and were promised additional allowances for doing so. The new employees established their own, yellow, union in March 2015, and from April 2015 violent incidents began to occur, both at the factory gate and inside the plant.

On the morning of April 30, the recently hired employees blocked the factory gate and hit the KMWU members on their way to work. KMWU central and regional leaders were scheduled to visit to the factory that day. On 15 June 2015, the same people damaged the union’s materials displayed on the walls of the plant using of knifes and hooks. When the KMWU members protested, the attackers also swung their hooks at the workers. The KMWU’s local branch was in the midst of a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
to demand that the company dismiss the people trying to bust the union. The union busters however were clearly aided and abetted by management.

The police did not arrest the attackers at the scene. Subsequently however the prosecutor has demanded that the employer and manager be sentenced to eight months of prison labour after it became clear that they gave the orders for the violence.

Striking construction worker deliberately hit by truck30-11-2015

On 16 November 2015, a member of the Korean Construction Workers’ Union (KCWU) named Na was hit by a dump truck during a protest to request an eight-hour day. The driver who hit Na was directly employed by the subcontractor. He was known to be aware that the victim was in front of his truck but he kept going straight intentionally.

Striking truck drivers threatened and beaten30-09-2015

On 4 September, police together with thugs hired by the Pulmuone food company threatened striking workers, beat them and raided their strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
encampment in front of the Pulmuone distribution centre in Eumseong, North Chungcheong Province. The Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division (Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions KPTU-Truck Sol) had called the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
to press for union recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. , decent working conditions and safety measures. During September managers flew drones over the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
encampment to illegally film workers. On 24 September, TruckSol members held a protest in support of the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in front of the company premises in Eumseong. During the protest they tried to stop strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
breakers and prevent illegally modified (overloaded) trucks being used by the company. In response roughly 100 company employees and hired thugs dragged union members into the company and kicked and beat them. In the early morning of 25 September, police raided the workers’ strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
encampment, supposedly searching for illegal protest materials, but without a warrant. The union tried to press charges against illegal actions by the company and hired thugs, but received little help.

Tower crane union members in custody27-11-2015

Five officials from the tower crane branch of the construction union KCWU found themselves in custody, awaiting trial, at the end of the year. Kim Myung-uk, President of the Seoul-Gyeonggi Tower Crane Operators’ Branch of the KCWU, was arrested with four other members on 27 November 2015 accused of blackmailing a tower crane rental company (Junkeyung Tower Crane). The other four were Jeong Min-ho, Vice President, Tower Crane Operators’ Division; Lee U-seong, President, Busan-Ulsan-South Gyeongsang Tower Crane Operators’ Branch; Ko Beom-seok, Organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. Manager, Seoul-Gyeonggi Tower Crane Operators’ Branch; Hwang Seong-yong, Organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. Manager, Seoul-Gyeonggi Tower Crane Operators’ Branch. They were actually seeking a collective agreement.

KCTU leader arrested in wave of repression as many more trade unionists faced possible charges14-11-2015

A warrant was issued in November for the arrest of Han Sang-kyun, the leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. marches and rallies to call for justice for the victims of the ferry disaster and to protest against proposed labour reforms.

The police tried to arrest him as he addressed a meeting shortly before the 14 November rally, but union members blocked their way and Han Sang-kyun got away. Nine people were taken into custody for helping prevent the arrest, 126 faced charges of aiding the KCTU leaders escape or taking part in the “illegal” protests, and a further 450 people were warned they faced police questioning over the same issues.

Two days after the 14 November rally, Han Sang-kyun took refuge in the Jogye Buddhist temple, explaining that he owed it to the country’s workers to resolve the issue of the pending labour reforms first. He finally left the temple on 10 December after the police launched an operation to remove him, clashing with temple officials. Han-Sang-kyun decided he did not want the people at the temple to suffer any further disruption. He called for a further protest against the government’s reforms to be held on 16 December, and said he would expose the authorities’ fierce repression of labour.

Han was held at the Namdaemun Police station in Seoul, awaiting trial. When Noriuki Suzuki of the ITUC-Asia Pacific asked for a meeting with him, the police turned down his request, citing concerns he might “destroy evidence”.

In addition to charges of organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. “illegal” rallies, the police asked for the KCTU leader to be charged with sedition, the first time in 29 years that such a charge had been brought.

Government bans mass rally, arrests participants and raids trade union offices21-11-2015

When plans for a mass rally on 14 November were announced, the government declared it was illegal and issued stern warnings against taking part. The rally was called to protest against the controversial labour market reforms, the state-authored history textbooks, the falling price of rice, and youth unemployment. “We will track down and bring to justice those who incite illegal protests and engage in violent acts,” said Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong.

When the rally went ahead, with an estimated 100,000 participants, the authorities’ responded with tear gas and water cannon. They also set up a police bus blockade to prevent protesters marching to the president’s office, even though the use of police buses as a barricade was ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court in 2011. The police made 51 arrests and the KCTU estimated that some 500 people had been injured as a result of what it described as excessive police violence. Twenty-nine people required hospital treatment. The police said it had mobilised about 22,000 police officers, 700 police buses and water cannons to shut Gwanghwamun Square from the protestors.

The following day the Justice Minister vowed that stern action would be taken against protestors who led what he called “violent, illegal” rallies.

The following Saturday, 21 November, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency raided 12 offices of eight unions, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), looking for evidence of participation in the rallies. The police confiscated union documents and digital forensic agents copied files from their computers.

Transport workers’ union office raided and leaders arrested11-11-2015

On the morning of 6 November 2015, some 200 police officers raided the headquarters of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU). Their pretext was a protest by striking drivers from the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division (KPTU-Truck Sol) who haul goods for the food products company Pulmuone. The strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
had begun on 4 September to press for union recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. , decent work conditions and safety measures.

The police took files from the TruckSol office on the second floor of the KPTU’s building, and attempted to raid upper floors housing the KPTU secretariat and other KPTU-affiliated institutions, but were stopped by protesting union officers and members and supporters. The government also issued arrest warrants for a dozen KPTU-TruckSol officers and members. On 11 November seven KPTU TruckSol members were arrested in relation to these warrants and taken into custody.

Government announces deal on labour reforms as police crack down on union protests29-09-2015

The government announced it had reached a deal on its controversial labour reforms in September 2015, making it easier for employers to dismiss “underperforming” workers, and to change labour contracts. In addition to creating insecurity, unions feared the measures would be used to get rid of their members. On 23 September the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) staged a one-day rally to protest against the deal agreed by the Economic and Social Development Commission, prompting the ruling Saenuri Party to claim the union umbrella group no longer represented the workers.

A harsh police crackdown on the protests led to claims of police violence, with tear gas being used, and pictures of protesters being grabbed by the neck by police. On 29 September the police announced that they would be tightening up the rules for demonstrations and protests, complaining that citizens’ lack of respect for law and order was “hurting national competitiveness” and “impeding efforts to stimulate the economy”. The new measures would include arresting anyone who crossed the police line.

Chemical multinational blatantly undermines union rights31-07-2015

Management at Dutch chemical giant Akzo Nobel’s Korean plant continued its refusal to engage in meaningful negotiation with the Korea Chemical and Textile Workers’ Federation (KCTF), despite its commitment to engage in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
“in sincerity and faith”, following mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
by the Ministry of Employment and Labour. Wage negotiations ground to a halt in July 2015, with the employer continuing to hire more and more contract workers, undermining the working conditions of permanent workers and weakening the ability of the union to press for its members’ legitimate demands.

The KCTF called on management to resume wage negotiations and to stop the systematic violation of basic occupational safety and health standards at the plant.

Construction union leaders arrested 30-06-2015

On 30 June members of the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) were arrested and charged over an incident in 2014.

Jang Ok-gi, President of Gwangju-South Jeolla Province Headquarters of KCWU; Shin Sang-gi, Vice President of Crane Operators’ Chapter of Gwangju-South Jeolla Province Construction Equipment Branch; and Park Seung-hee, organiser of the Crane Operators’ Chapter were arrested in court and charged with violation of the Assembly and Demonstration Act and obstruction of business related to a site struggle where some dismissed workers climbed up a steel tower requesting reinstatement last year. Jang was accused of holding an unreported and illegal rally in front of a local police office. In fact, he and other union members were gathered there waiting for the workers coming down from the top of the steel tower.

Ministry continues efforts to stifle teachers’ union20-10-2015

The Education Ministry threatened to take firm action against the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) after it announced on 20 October that it would issue a political statement opposing the government’s decision to impose a single state-issued Korean history textbook in schools. Opposition parties and academics feared the new textbooks would manipulate and distort the narrative of how the South Korean state was created. The Ministry said in a press release the next day that it would take disciplinary measures and initiate criminal proceedings against teachers who signed a political statement or who attended unauthorised demonstrations.

The KTU went ahead with its statement, and total of 21,379 teachers from 3,904 schools across the country participated. The Ministry lived up to its threats, bringing charges against 84 members of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), including the executive members and the chairman Byun Seong-ho. The Ministry also said it would be sending official documents to local superintendents, requesting punishment of those who participated in the declaration.

Teachers’ union leaders prosecuted 30-06-2015

On 26 June legal charges were brought against 27 members of the KTU by the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office public criminal investigation department. The charges related to the organisation of a school walk out in June 2014 and a nationwide teachers’ rally the following month to call for the reversal of the decision to revoke the KTU’s legal status. The individuals, who included former KTU president Kim Jung-hoon, were charged with violating the State Public Officials Act.

Prosecutors also indicted another six people, including KTU teacher Lee Min-sook, for two May 2014 incidents in which messages were posted on the Blue House website and a public appeal was issued criticising President Park Geun-hye for her handling of the Sewol ferry disaster and calling for her resignation.

National Intelligence Service instrumental in moves to outlaw teachers’ union26-05-2015

Disturbing reports emerged in May that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) was behind the attempts to strip the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) of its official status. On 26 May, the Korean daily newspaper Hankyoreh acquired a transcript of remarks and instructions made by then-NIS Director Won Sei-hoon on 18 February 2011. “Branch directors should work with the superintendents of schools, or the vice superintendents [public servants with the Ministry of Education] if the superintendents seem to be left-leaning [. . .] to leaning [. . .] to make sure that disciplinary measures are taken against teachers who are members of the Democratic Labour Party in line with the previous ruling. It looks like we’re going to have to turn the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union into an illegal union.” Won, who made the remarks at a monthly meeting with NIS department heads, wanted branch directors to punish teachers in the KTU and to make an effort to strip the KTU of its official status. He instructed the directors to work directly with conservative superintendents and with officials with the Ministry of Education to prevent the NIS’s involvement from coming to light.

Government continues efforts to outlaw teachers’ union16-11-2015

The Korea Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) appeared to be losing its battle with the government over its legal status when the Constitutional Court ruled on 28 May 2015 that a labour law banning dismissed education workers from joining trade unions was constitutional. The KTU had been fighting for its legal survival ever since the Labour Ministry decided in October 2013 to outlaw the union for allowing dismissed education workers to become or remain members. Only nine members of the 60,000 strong union fall into the “illegal” category. The clause itself runs counter to international labour standards international labour standards Principles and norms related to labour matters, primarily codified in the Conventions and the Recommendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Include core labour rights such as freedom of association and the right to organise, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, which are all covered by ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

See ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
, which stipulate that unions should be free to choose their own members and leaders. The ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
had made it clear that that the prohibition on dismissed and unemployed workers as members or leaders was a violation of the principles of freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
.

If the decision were finalised, the KTU would lose the right to engage in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
with the government, and all full-time union members of the KTU would have to return to their teaching posts.

The government had long made its antipathy towards the union clear, and continued to do so. At the World Education Forum held from 19-22 May 2015 in Incheon, Korea, the government did not even invite the KTU to participate, despite it being one of the two biggest teaching unions in the country.

The battle was not entirely lost, however. Despite upholding the rule’s constitutionality, the Constitutional Court also said it would not necessarily be lawful to strip the KTU of its legal status, as it that had filed an establishment notice and was functioning legitimately. The court maintained that it was for the High or Supreme Court to decide if the Ministry’s notification was appropriate. “The KTU has operated as a legal union for ten years since its establishment, and the extra-legal status announcement was only made in October 2013 despite dismissed workers having been present before that,” the court said.

On 16 November the Seoul High Court overturned the Supreme Court’s decision by accepting a request to suspend the decision to revoke the legal status of the KTU “until the time of an appeals court ruling and sentence”. The fight for the legal survival of the KTU continues.

Ministry repeatedly blocks migrant union’s bid for recognition20-08-2015

The Ministry of Employment and Labour has repeatedly sought to frustrate the Migrants Trade Union’s (MTU) attempts to win legal recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. and protect the rights of migrant workers. The union first applied for legal recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. on 2005, and in 2007 the High Court ruled in its favour. The Ministry of Employment and Labour, however, consistently refused to register the MTU, claiming its members were illegal immigrants, and instead engaged in a targeted crackdown on the organisation, arresting and deporting its leaders.

On 26 April 2015, the MTU staged a rally in central Seoul to highlight its demands on behalf of the country’s migrant workers, including the right to establish trade unions, to take part in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
and take collective action, as well as to have more freedom to change their workplaces, and higher salaries. A report by Amnesty International published in 2014 revealed that Korea’s migrant workers are often compelled to work under conditions that they do not agree to, under threat of various forms of punishment including intimidation, violence, bad housing, excessive working hours, no weekly rest days and denial of paid overtime. The Labour Ministry had done nothing to address these issues.

The Ministry’s claims that the MTU sought to represent illegal workers were not entirely factual. The great majority of the country’s 700,000 migrant workers – some 553,000 – were in the country legally on the Employment Permit System visa (although it was a system that left them open to abuse).

On 25 June 2015, in a landmark decision, Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that undocumented migrant workers have the right to unionise and should be included in the scope of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act. In reaching its decision, the Court reviewed relevant legislation from a wide range of other countries, and found that the right to organise for undocumented migrants is the international standard.

The Ministry of Employment and Labour responded with another legal challenge on 7 July, insisting that the MTU make some changes to its regulations before the establishment notice could be certified. Specifically, it demanded a revision to the regulations’ terms on its right to oppose crackdowns and deportations, to fight for the legalisation of migrant workers, and to oppose the Employment Permit System (which ties migrants to an individual employer and limits their time of residence), claiming that these were “political aims”.

The Ministry finally agreed to recognise the legality of the MTU on 20 August after the union changed its “purpose of establishment” to improving the social and economic status of migrant workers in Korea, rather than to abolish the EPS system and grant amnesty to illegal migrant workers.

Government interference in collective bargaining 24-06-2015

The government appeared to be interfering directly in the collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
process when it decided to examine companies’ collective agreements and order them to change the ones it didn’t like. It visited 3,000 companies with more than 100 employees nationwide to encourage them to revise their collective agreements with unions. The visits went hand in hand with government plans to increase labour flexibility by blocking unions from influencing key management issues. The KCTU objected that the revisions would make it easier for employers to fire workers.

On 24 June 2015, the Ministry of Employment and Labour released the results of its study of collective agreements at the 30 South Korean corporations with the highest sales. The study found for example that 10 companies had rules providing for a single negotiating union, and 14 companies had to have the consent of labour unions for appointments and management decisions. The Ministry concluded that some of the rules, such as the ones requiring a single negotiating union, were against the law, and announced that it would encourage management and labour at these companies to change these rules on their own by the end of August. If they did not do so voluntarily, the Ministry would officially order the changes it wanted.

The Ministry also criticised the rules concerning appointments and other decisions as being unreasonable regulations that “weaken companies’ competitiveness”. The unions pointed out, however, that these issues typically concerned decisions affecting workers’ welfare, such as relocating workers, outsourcing outsourcing See contracting-out labour, layoffs, and voluntary retirement.

Government threatens legal action over general strike24-04-2015

A long-running dispute between the unions and the government over proposed labour reforms to introduce more “flexibility” and change collective agreements led the unions to call for an indefinite strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
beginning on 24 April 2015, after tri-partite talks had failed to reach agreement. The government issued stern warnings that charges would be brought against anyone taking part in the general strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, which it considered illegal on the grounds that the motive was political. In addition to opposing the proposed labour market reforms, the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was aimed at supporting demands for an increase in the minimum wage, and the scrapping of plans for pension reforms in the public sector, which would cut benefits.

When the Korean Teachers’ Union (KTU) announced it would join the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, the Education Ministry also threatened legal action, noting that they were banned by law from taking part in collective action – even though education is not classified as an essential service by the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
.

Over 200,000 joined the unions’ call for the general strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, and government insisted again that disciplinary and legal measures would follow. It was as good as its word. Several trade union leaders were arrested for their role in the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
including Lee Gil-u, President of Daegu-North Gyeongsang Province Construction Site Workers’ Branch of the Korean Construction Workers’ Union (KCWU); Im Seong-yeol, Chief of Daegu Regional Council of the KCTU; and Park Hee-eun, Secretary General of the KCTU Daegu Regional Council .

Samsung Group executives cleared of anti-union schemes despite written evidence:19-06-2015

In January 2015, Korean state prosecutors decided not to bring charges against Samsung Group executives, including Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who had been accused of blocking Samsung workers from establishing labour unions. The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office said Tuesday that it cleared Lee and the group’s strategy office head Choi Gee-sung of allegations they had violated the country’s labour law, citing a lack of evidence. The accusations came to light in October 2013 when Rep. Sim Sang-jung of the minor opposition Justice Party disclosed a 150-page document detailing the group’s anti-labour activities. It read: “In case of attempts to establish labour unions, the group’s labour-related departments and each affiliate’s personnel affairs departments should cooperate to deter the moves as early as possible,” adding, “If the early collapse fails, they should make the unions wither through a long-term strategy.” Samsung has long kept a stance not to support labour unions. Following the disclosure, some civic groups and the Lawyers for a Democratic Society filed a complaint with the prosecution against Lee and Choi, claiming the group carried out systematic tactics to block any moves to form labour unions. Prosecutors, however, said they could not find evidence showing that Samsung affiliates committed unfair labour practices. Prosecutors did, however, find unfair practices at one affiliate, Samsung Everland, which changed its name to Cheil Industries last year. They subsequently asked a court to hand down between 5 million and 10 million won in fines to four executives there.

KTU legal status and leader under attack from government authorities:19-06-2015

In October 2013, the government outlawed the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) due to its repeated refusal to deny membership to fired teachers. In a ruling in June 2014, the Seoul Administrative Court approved the decision, depriving the KTU of its 14-year-old status as a legal trade union. The court said the KTU could only retrieve its status by nullifying the membership of dismissed educational workers, who, according to Article 2 of the Labour Relations Act, cannot join unions. The teachers’ group took to the streets to protest the court’s decision. In response, the Ministry of Education (MOE) ordered KTU members to return to their schools or otherwise face stern consequences. On 27 June 2014, about 1500 of members of the KTU left work early to demonstrate against the government’s decision. It also presented a petition signed by 12,000 of its members, calling for President Park Geunhye to step down. On 15 July 2014, police seized KTU’s website servers as part of an investigation into alleged illegal political activity by its members. The education ministry said it had filed charges against some 107 KTU members who were in charge of organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. the protests and petition, claiming that the action ‘damaged the political neutrality of education’. The ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
has urged the Korean government to repeal the provision from its legislation through its various committees. In September 2014, Judge Min Joon-gi of the Seoul High Court granted the KTU an injunction injunction A court order prohibiting or preventing a certain course of action, such as calling or continuing with a strike. allowing it to retain its legal status until an appeal was decided. His Honour also accepted a request that the Constitutional Court review whether Article 2 of Labour Relations Act was in accordance with the country’s Constitution, observing: “The article possibly goes against the principle of excessive prohibition ensured under the Constitution and infringes upon teachers’ rights to organisation and equality.” Days earlier, a Seoul district court rejected request by the state prosecutor to order the arrest of KTU chief Kim Jeong-hoon, who was being investigated for allegedly violating the nation’s public servants law. The law prohibits civil servants, including public school teachers, from taking part in political activities, such as holding rallies or voicing their political opinions in public. Kim allegedly wrote posts denouncing President Park Geun-hye on the website of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in breach of the National Public Service Law, prosecutors said.The KTU head is also accused of infringing on the law by making online posts demanding the truth about April’s ferry disaster and criticising the government for its poor response, they said. The prosecution further alleges that the union leader led an early leave of absence by some 1,500 KTU members on June 27 in protest of a government decision to turn the KTU into an outsider union for accepting dismissed teachers as its members. “There is not enough reason to detain (Kim) at the present stage after reviewing the evidence and investigation process,” Yoon Gang-yeol, a judge from the Seoul Central District Court, said of the reasons for the court’s decision.

State-owned companies pressured to cut their debt ratio by 200 per cent11-12-2013

On 11 December 2013, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance ordered 295 state-owned companies to cut their debt ratio by 200 per cent by 2017. The Ministry threatened managers who failed to reach this goal with dismissal. Companies need to develop plans to reduce debts, and the government will evaluate their efforts in the third quarter of 2014 and dismiss heads of organisations that are unable to present such a plan.
The FKTU believes that this plan intends to shift the responsibility of the debt to workers by stressing that debts are attributable to excessive salaries, bonuses and welfare benefits to the employees. Moreover, the government instructed the state-owned companies to change collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreements which are not in line with its guidelines, providing a checklist of 58 items to be redressed. Most of these items have nothing to do with the debt.

Economic and Social Development Commission23-12-2013

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) reported that consultations with the Economic and Social Development Commission (ESDC) were not effectively conducted. The agreements reached in the ESDC do not have a binding character. Instead, the ESDC intervenes in issues which should be left to bipartite negotiations between employers and unions such as wages and working hours. Moreover, the ESDC has been criticised for selecting members who are closer to employers rather than representing public interests broadly. On 23 December 2013, the FKTU walked out of the ESDC in protest to the government’s raid on the offices of the KCTU in relation to the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU).

Mass dismissal of striking workers16-12-2013

The Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) called a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
at the Korea Railroad Corporation (KORAIL) against privatisation. The union made five specific demands: revocation of the decision to establish the Suseo KTX corporation; stopping the issuance of corporate licenses by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport; establishment of a railroad development subcommittee in the National Assembly Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee; establishment of an organisation for stakeholder discussions; and putting an end to anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

.

KORAIL responded by dismissing about 6,748 workers who participated in the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. This means that almost all the workers who went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
lost their jobs. The KRWU filed an injunction injunction A court order prohibiting or preventing a certain course of action, such as calling or continuing with a strike. with the Daejeon District Court to prevent the establishment of the Suseo KTX Corporation. Solidarity actions were held throughout the country together with civil society organisations against privatisation at central train stations in Cheonan, Jeonju, Suncheon, and Mokpo.

Korea Teacher Union de-registered24-10-2013

Because it allows dismissed and retired workers in its membership, the Korea Teacher Union (KTU) was informed by the Minister of Employment and Labour to amend its by-laws until 23 October 2013. The union was threatened to be de-registered, if it failed to make the amendments. On 26 September, teachers in Seoul protested against this threat.On 23 October the KTU was de-registered by the government and 76 teachers who were working as full-time union representatives were ordered to return to their schools on 24 October.

Interference in trade union activities and administration16-08-2013

E-Mart Co. Ltd. systemically attempted to undermine the organisation of the union, such as illegally using workers’ resident registration numbers to check if they had joined the union.

Exclusion of workers from freedom of association28-02-2013
Interference by employers16-08-2013

Hanjin has formed a “yellow” union to lure members from the Korea Metal Workers Union (KMWU). This situation drove Choe Kang-seo, Deputy Organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. Director of the KMWU Busan Regional Branch Hanjin Local to take his life.

Direct discrimination against trade union members and leaders16-08-2013

137 KGEU members have been dismissed for their trade union activities. The KGEU President and Secretary General were dismissed on the grounds that they are leaders of an illegal organisation.

165 public enterprise workers who are members of the Korean Federation of Public Sector and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU) were dismissed in retaliation for legitimate union activities. Many of these workers, including 96 members of the KPTU-affiliated Korean Railway Workers’ Union faced reprisals due to their opposition to public sector privatisation and other actions taken to defend quality public services. Others were fired in an effort to prevent legitimate efforts to improve poor working conditions.

Prohibition of demonstration01-04-2013

In April 2013, police banned a protest rally by union workers of the Jinju Medical Centre against the closure of the hospital. It was argued that union members had previously used violence to deter members of the South Gyeongsang Provincial Council from entering the building.

Sanctions against legitimate strike action01-08-2012

At Hyundai Motor, a “dispatched” worker won court decisions in January 2011 and February 2012, holding that he was an “illegally dispatched labour” and not “subcontracted labour”. The courts recognised the worker as a full-time employee directly employed by Hyundai after he worked more than two consecutive years at the plant. However, management of Hyundai refused to implement the ruling, which it announced on August 2012. Following the company’s denial, the KMWU initiated industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. for the regularisation of all subcontracted workers who work for more than two years. The company responded with lawsuits requesting damages of 16.2 billion for strikes and sit-ins at the Ulsan, Asan and Jeonju plants.

In many industrial disputes, companies have used a much criticised “obstruction of business” law to seek arrests and devastating fines for engaging in strikes.

Interference in strikes27-07-2012

On July 27, 2012, the car parts manufacturer SJM hired and ordered personnel from the private security firms, Contactus, to violently break-up a sit-down strike sit-down strike A form of industrial action whereby workers occupy their workplace but do not carry out any work.

See strike
at its factory while police officers called several times by beaten workers came to the scene more than an hour later and then did not intervene in the violence.

Infringement of the right to establish unions06-06-2013

The Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) is still not recognised as a legal trade union organisation. The government has refused to register the union three times. Since its founding, 137 union members have been dismissed for their trade union activity. In January 2013, KGEU President Kim, Jung-nam conducted a 16-day hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
before being hospitalised. The KGEU is now continuing a sit-it strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in front of the National Assembly. The KGEU President and Secretary General were recently dismissed on the grounds that they were leaders of an illegal organisation.

Crackdown on unions and increasing use of lawsuits30-11-2011

According to reports, compensation being claimed by management over labour disputes is increasing despite an agreement eight years ago between labour and management restricting large indemnification suits after a series of workers suicides had resulted from large lawsuits. Several trade unionists were in jail in 2011 for strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
related activity.

In an examination of five large workplaces facing labour-management disputes, the total amount of compensation claims amounted to around 75 billion won (USD69,4 million). This included 30,1 billion won claimed by KEC, 17,9 billion claimed by Kumho Tyres, around 20 billion claimed by Hyundai Motor and its in-house subcontractors, 2 billion claimed by JEI, and 5,377 billion by Hanjin Heavy Industries (including a 96 million won fine against a single union member Kim Jin-suk, who led a crane top protest for much of 2011). Around 910 union leaders and members have been targeted by the claims.

KEC requested 30,1 billion won in damages even after establishing a collective agreement not to collect compensation. The companies that have claimed damages argue that they have suffered major losses due to illegal activities by the unions and that they are following proper procedure in requesting damages and attachments. However, many union officials are reportedly losing personal property and suffering depression as a result. In 2003, Doosan Heavy Industries worker, Bae Dal-ho, committed suicide by self-immolation, protesting the injustice of compensation claims while in October 2003, two union heads took their own lives, Kim Ju-ik at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Lee Hae-nam at Sewon Tech.

Underlying the proliferation of compensation claims is the difficulty workers face in holding legal strikes. All substantive strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
efforts are regarded as “illegal”, and companies use this illegality as a pretext for taking legal action. In February, Hanjin Heavy Industries undertook restructuring efforts that resulted in 400 lost jobs, including 230 voluntary resignations and 170 dismissals - a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in response was declared illegal. In-house subcontracting workers at Hyundai Motor carried out a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
asking for conversion to regular employee status in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling, but this too was ruled illegal.

The interpretation from the government and the courts is that restructuring, privatisation, layoffs etc. fall under the category of management rights management rights Rights pertaining to the running of an establishment that are reserved to management and are not proper subjects for collective bargaining, e.g. hiring, scheduling of production and determination of working methods. Also called management prerogatives. and therefore strikes to prevent them are not permitted. According to Kwon Du-seop, a lawyer with the KCTU Law Centre, workplace damage claims are primarily being used to suppress the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and to crack down on unions. Concerns also remain over courts favouring management during lawsuits.

On 24 June, the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) Assistant General Secretary, Fernando Lopes, joined a delegation that visited the National Assembly to report about recent, extensive violence against trade unions in Korea.

Unilateral cancellation of collective agreements 30-06-2011

The current legislation allows for the unilateral cancellation of a collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreement, a clause which is often used by employers. The unilateral termination of collective agreements, one of the most central elements in labour-management relations, increased by some four times at public institutions

In July, the number of improper labour activity reports received so far for 2011 was 459, more than the entire total of 451 received in 2010.

Repression of migrants union and crackdown on illegal migrants31-08-2011

Migrant workers are subject to serious abuses of labour rights. While the laws offer them similar protection to local workers in terms of wages and basic conditions, in reality most are paid far less than their Korean counterparts, forced to work long hours and often have their wages withheld. They are tied to their employer and face restrictions in changing jobs, making them particularly vulnerable.

There are around 700,000 migrant workers in South Korea, mainly working in factories producing textiles and electronics, but also involved in prostitution. In September 2008, the government announced it would halve the estimated 220,000 illegal migrant workers by 2012 and increased the sometimes violent deportation raids in workplaces and homes. Nearly 80% of migrant workers said that they had experience of being verbally abused at their workplaces while over 25% reported physical abuse. In September, it was announced that the government was suspending the entry of migrant workers from Vietnam after significant numbers failed to return home after their work visas expired.

Interference with trade unions31-12-2010

In January, the Ministry of Employment and Labour rejected a National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) recommendation from October 2010 to reduce its interference in labour union establishment procedures and union membership criteria. It also reportedly ignored demands to allow temporarily unemployed workers and job-seekers into unions. In May 2010, a senior policy advisor of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development TUAC-OECD) stated that the Korean government is interfering excessively with labour-management relations and that the policy of limiting wage payments to unionists did not conform to international standards. Trade unionists also criticised a new Trade Union Act that went into effect in July 2010 and which reduces the number of full time union officials. The number of full-time unionists in workplaces with less than 300 workers has reportedly decreased by 25%.

Multiple unions welcomed, but unions express concern about impact of single bargaining channel on minority unions30-06-2011

On 1 July, a new law went into force which allows multiple labour unions at a single workplace. The law was first enacted in 1997, but had been postponed for a decade. Under the revised law, only two people are needed to form a trade union. Supporters see the law as a means of improving worker’s rights to establish trade unions at enterprises that had established pro-management unions, or enterprises which had previously banned unions. Both Samsung and POSCO have maintained a “no labour union” policy so far by establishing a pro-management, or “ghost” labour unions, thereby blocking the creation of the real ones. The ministry expects 400 to 500 new unions to be founded over the next 12 months, adding to the total in 2009 of 4,689.

However, the requirement to establish a single bargaining channel faced strong opposition from FKTU and KCTU. Under the new system, workers can establish up to two or more trade unions at the enterprise level. It remains possible for multiple unions to bargain separately with the employer – only if the employer agrees, which is viewed as unlikely. In most cases, unions will have to determine a representative trade union to conduct bargaining with the employer. If multiple unions fail to establish a single bargaining channel on their own, the trade union composed of a majority of workers (including a union delegated authority by an alliance with smaller unions) would be the representative union. If there is no majority union, the multiple unions need to create a joint bargaining team in which they all participate. Unions are opposing the requirement to establish a single bargaining channel, arguing that it will restrict minority trade unions’ bargaining rights.

“Illegal” strikes and police violence30-11-2010

Collective action often becomes “illegal”, even when it is not in essential services essential services Services the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. Can include the hospital sector, electricity and water supply services, and air traffic control. Strikes can be restricted or even prohibited in essential services.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
, given the complicated legal procedures for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. The government continued to repress such action severely, including the imprisonment of hundreds of trade unionists. In the majority of cases, the principal charge was “obstruction of business”. Unionists striking “illegally” often receive a one-year prison sentence or heavy fines. Imprisoned trade unionists are generally isolated from one another in order to prevent them from taking collective action while in jail.

The authorities use the violence that takes place during some demonstrations and strikes to justify the detention of trade union leaders; however, unions insist police action is unnecessarily provocative and disproportionately brutal. Prosecutors are quick to issue arrest warrants as soon as workers go on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, or sometimes the moment a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
is announced. Police or security agencies mount surveillance operations, some of a sophisticated nature, in order to capture the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
leaders. This surveillance is sometimes carried out on members of the trade unionists’ families. Unions’ offices and telecommunications are routinely monitored.

In April, it was reported that prosecutors had been collecting DNA samples from workers convicted of engaging in strikes and other activities. The practice, which currently targets workers who took part in a Ssangyong Motor strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and the occupation of Daelim Motor, had reportedly been taking place at district prosecutor’s offices across the country since March.

OECD criticises Korean government interference in unions31-05-2010

In May a senior policy advisor of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the Korean government is interfering excessively with labour-management relations and that the policy of limiting wage payments to unionists did not conform to international standards. He also commented that the Korean time off system for union officials was introduced to weaken unions as was the fact that workers had to cover all union expenses unlike in other nations. The OECD was in South Korea to conduct an investigation into the deteriorating situation of labour rights and determine whether to include South Korea in its special monitoring.

Demonstrators kept out of harms way30-11-2009

Under the Law on Assembly and Demonstration, any gathering is banned within a hundred metres of foreign diplomatic missions. As a result, many large companies, such as Samsung, have invited embassies to rent offices in their buildings. This tactic effectively prevents workers from demonstrating in front of the company’s headquarters.

“Paper unions”30-11-2009

In a context where trade union pluralism is prohibited by law at the plant level, many employers have resorted to creating management-controlled unions, known as “paper unions”. As they are impossible to democratise from within, owing to management’s hostility, and since the law forbids the organisation of alternative unions, workers are left with few, if any, rights and cannot engage in genuine collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. The continued ban on union pluralism at the plant level reinforces the negative impact of these “paper unions” in denying workers their collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
rights.

Worsening repression of union organising 31-01-2009

A February 2009 fact-finding mission of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Global Union Federation representatives and the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) of the OECD found supporting evidence that precarious workers in Korea continue to be denied the most basic rights, specifically rights to freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
, collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
and collective action. The mission also concluded that the trade union rights situation is deteriorating, and that the government has failed to implement recommendations made by the International Labour Organisation (ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
) to bring its laws into conformity with core ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
standards, including the use of Korea’s unique “obstruction of business” clause (section 314 of the penal code) to severely limit legitimate trade union activity.

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