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Temps to get a union card: Finance umbrella union allows them to join

By Kim Chang-gyu <jbiz91@joongang.co.kr>, JoongAng Ilbo, 5 December 2003

Contract workers in financial companies will be the first non-permanent employees to be allowed to join industry-level unions in Korea.

The Korea Financial Industry Union, an organization of individual labor groups at companies in the sector, said yesterday that it would organize a special section for casual workers and allow them to join the union before the end of the year.

Contract workers are suffering greatly, although they do the same jobs as regular workers, said Lee Yong-deuk, the chairman of the financial union. It is time to organize them.

The financial union, the majority of whose members are individual bank unions, said it would negotiate with management on behalf of both regular and contract workers in collective bargaining at 33 institutions that will run from March until sometime in May. The union will press for preferential full-time hiring of contract workers, it said, and seek better wages and working conditions for them.

The new members are expected to bring changes to traditional labor-management issues, which have been focused in the past only on regular employees. Tensions could rise because contract workers will not be members of individual company unions; their sole representation will be at the industry level.

The financial union said it wants to combine unions of contract workers and regular workers and help non-regular employees enter those company unions as well.

The Korea Financial Industry Union’s decision to accept contract workers at its branch will be the start of organizing contract workers, said Kang Hun-jung, a senior official at the Federation of Korean Trade Unions.

According to the financial union, nearly 41,000 of the total 137,000 employees at member institutions are contract workers.

According to a survey of financial industry employees, non-regular workers earn an average of 1.2 million won ($1,024) per month, only 41 percent of regular workers’ wages. Contract workers in their 40s make less than 1.5 million won a month. Because of that wide wage gap, banks and other financial institutions have hired more contract workers. The number of regular employees at financial institutions affiliated with the financial union fell 5 percent to 4,600 in the first six months of this year, but the number of contract workers jumped 22 percent to 7,400.