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Unions Tie Roh’s Labor Policy to Referendum

By Soh Ji-young, jysoh@koreatimes.co.kr, The Korea Times, 21 October 2003 19:16

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a progressive umbrella labor union, on Tuesday said it will launch a massive struggle against the government unless it abandons its offensive policies toward the labor sector.

The confidence vote proposed by President Roh (Moo-hyun) appears to be a political tactic to overcome his difficult position, but if he asks for confidence while failing to conduct reform policies we will not support him, KCTU leader Dan Byung-ho said at a news conference.

Claiming that the government’s hard-line labor policy contributed to driving a union leader to commit suicide last week, the KCTU said that if the government keeps its tough stance, unionists will show their disapproval of Roh in the proposed referendum.

The union demanded that the government suspend oppressive measures against workers, such as its crackdown on striking union members, allowing firms to file compensation suits against them and the creation of irregular workers.

It said a total of 132 unionists were arrested in the first eight months of the Roh administration, while union workers in 46 workplaces face compensation suits and provisional asset seizures of more than 130 billion won related to walkouts.

The union said it will stage a series of protests in Pusan from today until early next month and gather more than 100,000 union members for a massive rally in Seoul on Nov. 9.

The statement came after Kim Chu-ik, a union leader of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, was found hanged at the company’s plant on Friday.

Kim had been conducting a one-man demonstration on top of a 40-meter crane at the plant since June 11, when talks over wage increases and better working conditions broke down.

No suicide note was found, but union members claimed that Kim, 40, killed himself after negotiations between the union and management showed little signs of resuming despite his long protest.