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Labor unions decry use of surveillance methods

By Lim Bong-soo, JoonAng Ilbo, 8 August 2002

CAPS, a security company, blocked access for labor union members to the union's homepage in April. The company explained that abusive and violent language prevented an agreement between management and labor.

The company also installed a closed-circuit television on top of its building in June after the labor union went on strike, and began surveillance on the activities of open-air demonstrations of the union.

More and more companies are adopting containment policies against labor unions, blocking homepages and adding surveillance to labor activities. Labor unions say that such diversionary moves suppress unions, but it is hard to judge whether the new policies are illegal or not.

CAPS is not the only firm that adopts ambiguous restraining measures against labor unions. Korea East-West Power Co., an electric power corporation, removed the protocol that allows the connection to the homepage of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a parent union of labor unions.

Blocking access to our homepage is like shutting down the union office, said a confederation official who charged the company with illegal labor suppression.

The power corporation insisted in accordance with the charge that it had to take the measure since instructions on strikes and labor activities had been delivered through the homepage.

Hotel Lotte and Jaeneung Education Institute Co. have also shut down their labor union's homepage due to violent and insulting words on message boards.

Surveillance cameras have become a hot issue as well. More than 10 companies had trouble over the closed-circuit televisions in July. The Confederation of Trade Unions suspected that the estimated number would be much more than 10, including unknown complications between management and labor over the surveillance. Physical confrontations were reported as well when union members caught the company installing a camera. Companies argued that the cameras were only for the protection of its equipment.

The selective provisional seizure is one of the containment measures that companies are now taking. An electric power corporation seized the payment of 3,000 members of the labor union as a compensation of the loss of 21.1 billion won ($1.8 million) due to strikes. The company selectively released 400 workers from the provisional seizure to return to work after signing a pledge that they will not participate in strikes in the future. The labor confederation said the estimated amount of seized payments is 126.4 billion won over 39 companies.