Corea, República de - Hongkik University contract cleaners go on strike and are then sacked (2012)

Over 30 janitors and cleaning personnel - representing 170 mainly female irregular workers in their 50s and 60s – held a sit-in protest in the main building of Seoul’s Hongik University, demanding the school withdraw the collective termination of their employment contracts. The service company which hired them to clean in the university had its contract terminated shortly after the workers organised a trade union in December 2010. After the school terminated the contract, the service company terminated individual contracts with the workers.

On 20 February, after a 49 day strike, the university reached a tentative agreement with the workers. The two labour supplying companies that fired them agreed to rehire them and further negotiated with the school on their behalf, according to the union members. According to the agreement, the hourly wage will rise slightly to 4,450 won for cleaners and 3,560 won for security workers on the condition of working eight hours a day, five days a week. However in July the university reportedly filed a lawsuit for damages against the workers demanding 280 million won (USD263,000) in compensation. The school said in a statement that they inflicted “significant damage to the school” by spearheading the rally on the first floor of an administration building for 49 days. The amount was set after calculating the amount the school spent to cover their use of water and electricity and to hire substitute cleaners during the protest.

In March, unionised cleaners and guards at three other universities in Seoul ― Korea University, Yonsei University and Ewha Woman’s University simultaneously went on strike, calling for an increase to their hourly wages. The joint strike by the three unions, which are members of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), came as a provincial labour committee failed to arbitrate between the unions and the schools in the final round of negotiations.

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