Defend the Right to Strike of Korean Rail Workers

The Korean government is moving forward with a rail privatization plan, despite stiff public opposition and a campaign promise by President Park Geun-hye not to proceed with high-speed rail privatisation. As a result, the members of the Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU) voted in overwhelming numbers to strike. That strike is scheduled to start on 9 December 2013.

The last time the KRWU struck, in 2009, the government declared the strike illegal despite the union following the letter of the law – which in Korea places substantial limitations on the right to strike in the transportation sector. The government then moved to dismiss workers, imprison union leaders and sue the union for millions of dollars. The government even sent in troops as replacement workers during the strike. The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association strongly denounced the government’s actions in 2012 but, over a year later, the government has done nothing to comply with the ILO’s recommendations.

The ITUC, together with the ITF, released a statement urging the government and Korail to negotiate with the union and raising concerns that the government and Korail will resort to similar tactics as they did in 2009. In particular, the ITUC has called on the government to refrain from using criminal charges of “obstruction of business” against workers exercising their legitimate right to strike. The ITUC has also urged the government to ensure that its labour laws comply with international law on the right to strike.

ITUC-ITF Statement

Labourstart Campaign