6 March 2014 – Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) members went on strike against planned privatisation measures for 23 days in December 2013. Four union leaders were arrested for their part in organising the strike. The ITF welcomed the news that the leaders had been released on bail on 20 February, but was alarmed to hear that they will be tried later this month.
Further, the employer Korail has announced that it will discipline 404 KRWU officers involved with the strike. Of these workers, 130 have been sacked – some with reduced severance pay – and 251 have been suspended. Korail has also filed a lawsuit 15.2 billion won (USD 14, 184, 555, 010) against the union and its leaders, while a union bank account has been frozen.
The KRWU also held a 24-hour strike in Seoul, Korea on 25 February. Civil society groups and trade unions in Korea organised a mass rally later that day, attended by ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton.
Korail classified workers who supported this action as ‘absent without leave’ and their pay has been docked accordingly. Korail has pressed legal charges against 138 officers involved with this strike, and plans to press charges against 118 more.
Korail’s actions have been met with international condemnation. The ITF, International Trade Union Confederation and Public Services International have all asked the Korean president to intervene. ITF railway section chair Oystein Aslaksen and ITF inland transport secretary Mac Urata also visited the Korean Ambassador to the OECD in Paris on 20 February.
Urata said: “Disciplinary actions against union members must be withdrawn, dismissed workers must be reinstated, and charges against the four KRWU leaders must be dropped. The ITF stands by its affiliates, and will continue to support them by any means necessary.”