On June 30, one hundred thousand South Korean workers took to the streets in Seoul to call on President Moon Jae-in to keep his campaign pledge of creating “a world that respects labor.”

Top among their list of concerns was the recent passage of a retrogressive amendment to the Minimum Wage Act. A 16% increase in the national minimum wage went into effect in January this year, but on May 28, the National Assembly passed an amendment designed to soften its blow on employers. The amendment to the Minimum Wage Act will allow employers to factor in bonuses as well as benefits like food, transportation, and lodging when calculating a worker’s basic wage. The amendment was approved by the Moon Jae-in administration and is scheduled to go into effect next year. Workers say it will negate any increase in their wages and are calling on President Moon to reverse the decision.

The protesting workers, all members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) gathered in Gwanghwamun Plaza, once the center of the candlelight protests that ousted former President Park Geun-hye and paved the way for Moon Jae-in to take office. After more than a year of Moon’s presidency, workers say they have yet to see any improvements for labor. At the rally, the KCTU pledged to do the following:

  • Fight to abolish the retrogressive amendment to the Minimum Wage Act;
  • Mobilize a general strike and mass struggle in the second half of 2018; and
  • Organize a national workers’ action to call for the abolishment of precarious labor.

Their demands include the following:

  • Turn all irregular (i.e. precarious) workers in the public sector into regular workers
  • Abolish the practice of hiring temporary workers through dispatch agencies in the private sector
  • Abolish the retrogressive amendment to the Minimum Wage Act
  • Eradicate the exploitative subcontracting system run by the chaebol
  • Dissolve the chaebol system, responsible for wealth disparities and inequality; and
  • Immediately ratify critical agreements made with the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Irregular school workers demanding regular jobs; Photo - Work and World (KCTU)
100,000 workers gathered in Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul; Photo - Work and World (KCTU)
Workers demanding abolishment of retrogressive amendment to Minimum Wage Act; Photo - Work and World (KCTU)
Photo - Work and World (KCTU)
Parcel Workers' Union striking in front of CJ Korea Express headquarters in Seoul; Photo - Korea Shipping Gazette

As part of the day of mass worker action on June 30, the National Parcel Workers Solidarity Union (전국택배연대노조) waged a one-day strike in front of the Seoul headquarters of CJ Korea Express. The package delivery workers have been fighting for better working conditions and demanding their rightful pay for time spent on sorting packages. On average, parcel workers spend seven hours a day without pay sorting packages, according to the union.

The Parcel Workers’ Union has been calling on CJ Korea Express and its subcontractors to come to the bargaining table to negotiate. So far, the company has turned a deaf ear. More than five hundred members of the Parcel Workers’ Union joined the recent strike to call on CJ Korea Express to negotiate.

 

By ZoominKorea staff

 

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