“Let us not pass precarious employment on to our children”

Posted in activities on May 18th, 2013 by pssp – Be the first to comment

- The Struggle of Hyundai and Kia Irregular Workers

Suicide and Self-Immolation at Hyundai and Kia Plants

On April 14 an in-house subcontracted and later contract worker at Hyundai Motor’s Ulsan plant put a noose around his own neck and committed suicide. This man had first got a job at Hyundai Motor on the advice of his father, who had worked for automobile manufacturer until his retirement. He had wanted to be a Hyundai worker like his father.

As an in-house subcontracted worker this 28-year-old youth moved between the jobs left vacant by regular workers and eventually folded to the company’s pressure to accepting employment under a short-term contract, convinced by Hyundai’s promise that his contract would be maintained for at least two years. In violation of this promise, the worker was dismissed last year before the two years were up. Driven to despair by his sense of betrayal, he eventually took his own life.

In order to avoid a clause in the Act on Temporary Agency Work implemented on August 2 last year, which calls for the direct employment of temporary agency workers (many in-house subcontracted workers are considered temporary agency workers as a result of recent court cases) after two years, Hyundai had rehired this worker and 1,500 other in-house subcontracted workers on short-term contracts. The company then fired these workers in rounds. This policy was the cause of the workers’ death.

On April l6, only two days after the suicide, a 37-year-old worker who had worked in Kia Motors’ Gwangju plant for seven years lit himself on fire in protest self-immolation. The worker, Jong-hak Kim, had been an organizer for the Gwangju plant in-house subcontracted workers’ local. With his body ablaze Kim cried out continuously, “Let us not pass precarious employment on to our children,” and “Let us abolish precarious employment so we can live as human beings.” The father of three young daughters, Kim is now hospitalized, lying in pain. It was in response to management’s decision to hire new workers, rather than directly employ in-house subcontracted workers who had worked at the plant for 10 years to fill a labor shortage that Kim committed protest self-immolation.

Hyundai and Kia Irregular Workers Protest

The protest of irregular workers in Gwanggju continues. In addition, since April 22, dismissed irregular workers from the Hyundai plants in Ulsan, Jeonju and Asan have been in Seoul where they have set up a protest encampment in front of the Hyundai and Kia headquarters. The demands of these workers are the imprisonment of Hyundai Motor CEO Mong-koo Chung, who has illegal employed temporary agency workers under the guise of in-house subcontracting for the last ten years, and the regularization of these workers’ employment status. In response to the protest, Hyundai Motor has mobilized hundreds of manager-level employees who have joined riot police in repeated violent attacking against the protesting workers. Despite this repression, the workers continue to hold daily rallies and maintain their encampment night and day.

On April 26, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), the industrial union to which the workers are affiliated, staged a protest and set up a tent at the protest site, which was torn down by the police that night. On May 4, workers in Seoul and Ulsan held simultaneous rallies to commemorate the 200th day of the high-altitude protest being carried out by Byeong-seung Choi and Ui-bong Cheon at the Ulsan plant.

On May 10, the three Hyundai irregular worker locals went on strike. That day 800 workers protested in Seoul, taking over the four lane road in front of the Hyundai and Kia headquarters. On May 15, the KMWU held a major rally at the same location in which 3500 union members and officers participated. A ‘Committee to Respond to In-house Subcontracting’ has also been formed to support the workers’ struggle, with a hundred organizations participating around the country.

First Seoul Women Union Members’ Assembly held on December 11

Posted in activities on December 14th, 2010 by pssp – Be the first to comment

On Saturday November 11 a historic event took place. Roughly 300 women workers from the Seoul area gathered at Yeonsei University's Widang Auditorium for the first ever Seoul Women Union Members' Assembly. This event was organized by a coordinating committee composed of the women's committees of several unions and progressive political parties. PSSP is proud to have participated on this body and contributed to making the Women Union Members’ Assembly possible.

During the assembly, which lasted for several hours, participants shared their experience as women in the workplace with one another. The women were diverse in terms of occupation, including: public servants, educators, office workers, service workers, factory workers, care workers and cleaning workers. While the details of their jobs differ, however, the women found they have a common experience of oppression and discrimination as women living and working in a patriarchal society. The majority were irregular workers, suffering from low wages and lack of job security. Many shared experiences of being discriminated against, belittled and/or sexually harassed by colleagues or bosses who saw them simply as easy victims. Rather than remaining silent about these experiences, the women at the assembly chose to raise their voices to condemn the maltreatment and call for change.

The Assembly program also included speeches by women from unions currently on strike, including KEC Semi-conductors and Jaeneung Education. Performances by women union members, including singing by cleaning workers and a dance by care workers, were received enthusiastically by the audience as was a skit that illustrated the realities of women workers' lives.

By the end of the assembly participants had made a firm commitment to one another to work together to overcome discrimination and improve their work conditions. The also vowed to leave the periphery of their unions to become central actors in the workers movement and proclaimed the importance of a feminist perspective to union revitalization.

While the first Women Union Members' Assembly was held in Seoul many people have suggested that it be expanded to a national scale in the future. PSSP agrees with this proposal and hopes to work with other organizations and unions for its realization.

Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements Workshop, Nov. 8

Posted in activities on November 1st, 2010 by pssp – Be the first to comment

On November 8, the Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements will host a workshop on union responses to transnational corporations as part of the International People's conference, held in Seoul in timing with the G20 Summit. If you are coming to Seoul, please attend!

International Responses: TNC Structural Adjustment during the Economic Crisis and Labour's Strategies for Resistance

Workshop No. 3 of the International People's Conference, Seoul, November 7 ~ 10, 2010

Workers around the world have been facing massive layoffs and wage cuts since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008. According to ILO statistics, the global unemployment growth rate increased 18% between May 2008 and May 2009.

Layoffs and relocation of production by transnational corporations have played an important role in the deterioration of working conditions around the world. In response to the economic crisis, transnational corporations have closed factories and enforced layoffs in countries were consumption levels have stagnated, such as the U.S. and European countries, and moved to countries that might serve as new sources of consumption, such as China and India. Transnational automobile producers, such as GM and Toyota, who have close their plants in the U.S. and Europe and expanded investment in China, are typical of this trend. Because these types of structural adjustment are carried out through the transnational movement of capital, it is highly difficult for nationally-based unions to respond effectively. What is more, the activities of TNCs have great impact on the structural adjustment and worsening of labor-management relations in other companies in effected regions. This can be seen in South Korea where, over the last two years, labour repression by the Valeo and Parker Corporations has significantly influenced other companies and led to the general deterioration of labour-management relations. Needless to say, it is extremely important that unions develop an effective strategy for resistance.

The proposed workshop is meant as a space in which unions from various countries can share their experiences in responding to transnational corporations, and discuss mid to long-terms strategies for collective resistance. Leaders from around the world will gather in Seoul for the G20 Summit from November 11-12. To response to the Summit, labour unions and social movement forces are preparing a People's Week of Collective Actions (November 6 ~ 12), during which time an International People's Conference will be held from November 7 ~ 10. These events offer an important opportunity for unions and social movement forces from around the world to build a collective vision, develop strategies for responding to various aspects of the economic crisis, and begin to discuss alternative solutions. The proposed workshop will be an important part of this process.

Venue: Kim Dae Gon Hall, Sogang University
Date and Time: November 8, 16:30 ~18:30

Moderator: Wol-san Liem, Researcher, Research Institute for Alternative Workers

16:30 ~ 16:40 Welcome Hasoon Park, Executive Director, Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements
16:40 ~ 17:00 Korean experiences in fighting transnational corporations Jiwon Han, Research Director, Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements
17:00 ~ 17:40 Brazilian experience in fighting transnational corporations Quintino Marques Severo, General Secretary, CUT Brazil
17:40 ~ 17:55 break
17:55 ~ 18:05 Summary of presentations and proposal from the Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements Moderator
18:05 ~ 18:30 Q and A and Discussion Moderator

Translation: Consecutive translation Portuguese-Korean, Simultaneous translation Korean-English

PSSP Participates in National Care Workers Rally

Posted in activities on October 18th, 2010 by pssp – 2 Comments

On October 16, demonstrated our support for nurses’ aids, childcare workers, workers who assist the elderly and disabled people and other care workers by participating in a National Care Workers Rally. The protest, held in front of Bosingak (bell tower), a historic site in downtown Seoul, was attended by care workers and many of their allies, including social movement organizations, progressive political parties, student organizations and labor unions. All together roughly 200 people attended.

The main goal of the day were to demand that the government and public take responsibility for ensuring care workers’ work conditions and that care workers’ labor rights be guaranteed. Specifically, we called for 1) a living wage and job security for care workers, 2) an end to marketization of social services, 3) government efforts to strengthen the system for care service provision, 4) an end to the government’s plan for confronting South Korea’s low birthrate through marketization of social services and the consequent victimization of care workers.

Care work is a relatively new issue in South Korea. Until recently, care work services were performed mostly by women in the home as an element of unpaid reproductive labor. Recently, however, care work is being performed more and more as a form of low-paid wage labor, and has become and object of government policy. Rather than recognizing care work services as essential to social welfare, the government seeks their marketize, a policy which will result in further deterioration of the conditions in which care workers work. PSSP recognizes that in order for care workers’ to win proper work conditions and respect for their labor rights, social awareness of the importance of care work must be raised. For this to happen care workers themselves must organizing and come forward themselves to claim their rights.

It is with this understanding that PSSP has been supporting the struggle of care workers.
We not only participated in the National Care Workers’ Rally, but also assisted in planning and organization ahead of Oct. 16. Our new movement dance team also performed for the first time on Oct. 16. In the future we will continue to support care workers empowerment and leadership, and work in solidarity with their struggle

Announcing the Launch of the PSSP affiliated Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements, Oct. 21

Posted in activities on October 6th, 2010 by pssp – Be the first to comment

On Oct. 21, the PSSP affiliated Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements held its launching conference and ceremony at the Franciscan Education Center.

Our Mission

The Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements was established in 2010 to contribute to the revitalization of the workers movement in South Korea and beyond. Through empirical and theoretical study and dialogue with workers themselves, we are working to critically analyze the conditions workers face amidst the structural crisis of capitalism, and develop concrete policy for a workers movement that both improves workers’ lives and strives towards an alternative political-economic system.

Central to our work is the concept of social movement unionism, which calls for unions and other workers' organizations to play a leading role in political and social transformation. Social movement unionism also signifies union collaboration with social movement forces and the articulation of the struggle for labor rights with struggles against other forms of structural oppression, including the women's, anti-war, anti-racist and environmental justice movements.

By fostering social movement unionism in South Korea we seek to cultivate the Korean workers movement as part of a worldwide alterglobalization movement.

The Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements is affiliated to the social movement organization People's Solidarity for Social Progress, founded in 1998.

The program for the day was as follows:

3:00pm ~ 6:30pm Launching Conference
- The Economic Crisis and the Prospects for the Workers Movement; Hasoon Park, Executive Director, Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements
-The Korean Labor Movement: Theoretical Perspective and Tasks Ahead, Jiwon Han, Research Director, Research Director, Research Institute for Alternative Workers Movements
Discussants: Tae-yeon Kim (Executive Director, Workers’ Front); Seung-cheol Im (Steering Committee Member, Innovation Network); Il-bu Jeong (Korean Institute for Labor Movement)

7:00pm ~ 8:00pm Launching Ceremony

Contract Information: email: website: