(eng)1st National Korean Labor Strike Begins

Lao Tse (tao@tao.ca)
Sat, 28 Dec 1996 14:57:38 +0000 ()

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/** labr.global: 325.0 **/ ** Topic: 1st National Korean Labr Strike Begins ** ** Written 11:45 PM Dec 26, 1996 by labornews in cdp:labr.global ** From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org> Subject: 1st National Korean Labr Strike Begins

12-27-96 : Labor Unions Launch Nationwide Protest Strikes Korean Herald

A nationwide strike and antigovernment protests erupted yesterday after the ruling party unilaterally railroaded a labor bill through the National Assembly.

Unions threatened an ``indefinite strike'' till the new labor law is revised again to favor workers. They vowed to continue the antigovernment protests till their demand is met. The militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) declared its 280,000 members started an all-out strike in protest of the unilateral action of the ruling New Korea Party (NKP). KCTU chairman Kwon Yong-gil said in a news conference that the passage of the revision bill was ``void.''

Unionists at Hyundai Motors and other automakers, the three largest shipyards and Korea Telecom immediately went on strike. Other unionists at such industrial cities as Ulsan and Changwon also went on protest strikes. Hundreds of the KCTU members held a protest rally at the Myongdong Cathedral in Seoul. The strike stopped production lines at Hyundai Motors, the nation's largest automaker, and scores of other factories. The prosecution, however, said that such a strike was illegal, warning that anyone involved in the illegal labor action will face punishment.

The parliamentary passage of the labor bill was not subject to a labor dispute, and the strike was illegal as the unionists were using it in a bid to push their demand, the prosecution said. But the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) threatened a nationwide strike in January. The FKTU, which is larger than the KCTU, said 10,000 of its members will hold a rally in Yoido, Seoul, today to condemn the government and the ruling party for the blitzkrieg passage of the controversial labor bill.

``The new labor law would endanger our living,'' said an FKTU spokesman. But union leaders didn't say anything about the revision of the bill on the Agency for National Security Planning, which restored the agency's power to effectively trace and arrest North Korean spies. The majority NKP passed a total of 11 bills in the absence of opposition lawmakers early in the morning.

Under the new labor law, employers gained more freedom to lay off workers and increase their work hours, replace striking workers and transfer employees to different fields. Starting in the year 2000, more than one union will be allowed to operate in each workplace, and employers will no longer pay wages to those who are exclusively engaged in union activities.

The new law lifts a ban on political activity by trade unions and called for tax and financial benefits to help improve the welfare of workers and for beneficiary loans to employers. The new labor law was hailed by employers. A spokesman for the Korean Employers' Federation said that the new law was designed to help enhance the competitiveness of the nation's industries and stabilize the labor-management relationship.

``It is regretful that the rival political parties have failed to pass the bill with an inter-party agreement, but we are relieved that the bill passed the parliament, although belatedly,'' said the spokesman.

The government party's unilateral passage of the labor bill came after a prolonged fight between the government on the one hand and the unions and the opposition parties on the other, which started nine months ago, over South Korea's entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

** End of text from cdp:labr.global **

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