Irregular public school workers (kitchen staff, librarians, daycare teachers, etc. who work part-time or on short-term contracts with no benefits or job security) began a hunger strike on September 27 for an indefinite period of time. They are protesting the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education for refusing to agree to provide fair wages for irregular workers in public schools. October 2 marked the sixth consecutive day of the hunger strike. 

On September 26, irregular school workers halted negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement with the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. The negotiations for fair wages had started on August 18, but after eight attempts, the two sides could not reach an agreement.

Representatives from three labor unions — Education Workers Solidarity Division of the Korean Public Service and Transportation Workers Union (KPTU Ed-sol), National Women’s Union, and National School Irregular Workers Union — were part of the negotiations with the Office of Education.

At issue is the unions’ demand for an increase in the seniority allowance for irregular school workers. In South Korea, those who have worked at least three years at the same school receive a seniority allowance that serves as a raise in recognition of their long-term service. Currently by law, irregular school workers receive a 20,000 won (USD 17.45) increase in their yearly wage after three years.

The labor unions had initially demanded a seniority allowance of 50,000 won (USD 43.63) after two years of service. In order to reach a compromise, however, they reduced their demand to 30,000 won (USD 26.18) — only a $10 increase from the current allowance.

Irregular workers receive only 18 percent of what regularly-employed civil servants receive in seniority allowance. According to the coalition of irregular school workers unions, regular workers receive a seniority allowance of 930,000 won (USD 811.48) after ten years at their jobs — six times more than irregular workers, who receive 170,000 won (USD 148.34) for the same length of service. A part of its goal, says the coalition of irregular school workers unions, is to close the wage gap between regular and irregular workers.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said they would only agree to raise the seniority allowance if the workers agree to reduce the maximum number of hours they work per month from 243 to 209 hours. The unions criticized the offer as a trick to avoid raising wages for irregular workers.

The coalition of irregular school workers announced on September 26, “If we cannot settle on a collective bargaining agreement by the Chuseok (fall harvest) holidays, we will have no choice but to launch a general strike.” The Chuseok holidays begin this week on Wednesday October 4.

 

By ZoominKorea Staff

 

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