Metal workers to stage one-day strike Friday
An estimated 130,000 workers at 211 companies nationwide will stage a one-day strike, complying with an umbrella labor group's call for improved working conditions, labor unionists said Thursday.
The firms, which include the nation's top automakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., and GM Korea Co. -- said they will go on strike Friday, marking the first time in four years that the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) has taken collective labor action.
The companies are all affiliated with the country's largest industrial union, the progressive Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and have about 170,0000 workers employed in local automobile, steel, machinery and shipping sectors.
The KMWU said its members will go on a four-hour nationwide strike to demand a better guarantee of labor rights, root out unfair transactions between companies and subcontractors, abolish the temporary workers system and improve labor conditions.
"The walkout will be a stepping stone for workers to make the slogan 'We want to live like humans' come true," the KMWU said in a release, demanding that the minimum wage in the metal industry be raised from the current 4,670 won ($ 4.07) per hour to 5,600 won.
The strike plan was approved by about 80 percent of its affiliated workers in a vote held at workplaces nationwide from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to the KMWU.
It added a second round of the general walkout has been planned for next Friday if their demands are not met.
Related to the planned strike, South Korea's business organizations representing the interests of management, expressed grave concerns and called for stern action against the illegal measures by unionists.
The Federation of Korean Industries, the lobbying group for the country's large family-owned conglomerates claimed this is not the time for a nationwide strike.
"Eurozone woes are already exerting a negative influence on the domestic economy, making it imperative for both labor and management to work together," it said.
This view was echoed by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which pointed out that engaging in walkouts when the national economy is facing hard times will eventually hurt laborers.
Korea Employers Federation (KEF) was more vocal and argued that the latest strike is "politically motivated" with the KMWU following guidelines set by the KCTU.
It said that since the walkouts violate the country's labor law, the government must take steps to prevent it from spreading.
The KEF urged companies to abide by the "no work no pay" rules and if necessary, to carry out both legal and criminal actions if there are damages. (Yonhap)