Saturday, September 30, 2006


The World of Labor (September 29, 2006)
By Harry Kelber

Korean Police Shut Down 81 Union Offices in Reign of Terror
Korean riot police and security forces, under orders of the national government, shut down 81 chapter union offices of the Korean government employees union (KGEU) in a nationwide drive to cripple the organization.

More than 100 municipalities were turned into battlefields, as thousands of riot police armed with hammers, power drills and other equipment broke through the windows or by making an opening in the walls to storm into the offices. KGEU members were forcefully pulled out of the union offices and arrested. The union has 251 chapters across South Korea.

There were, however, several cases where union members were able to force the police and the municipal officers to back off. For example, at Hinju of Gyeongnam province, the union chapter mobilized 300 members to protect the office and struggled against attempts to close it down. Sacheon chapter, among several others, managed to fight off the closure of the office through mobilization of their members and staging sit-ins. Despite the shutdown of so many offices, the union is continuing to function, while organizing a series of protest actions.

Korean labor leaders view the present situation as a war between a democratic and independent trade union and an authoritative and barbaric government. Support for the KGEU has come from the Public Services International (PSI) a global union of 20 million public sector workers.
Chilean Teachers March for Higher Pay
Thousands of public school teachers marched peacefully to the capital to demand higher pay, amid heavy police security, following violent student protests early this year. Police said some 2,000 people took part in the 20 block march to the Education Ministry on Sept. 26, while independent radio reports put the number at closer to 5,000.

Teachers have complained that negotiations for higher pay have dragged on too long and that the government has not been flexible enough. They have called for at least a 5% salary increase as well as other benefits. Government authorities said the teachers
' demands would drain 370 million pesos ($685 million) from Chile's annual budget. But the teachers say that soaring prices for Chilean copper have boosted the government's revenue.

In July, hundreds of thousands of high school students staged a three-week revolt, demanding concessions in education, including better-built schools, subsidies for public transport and free school lunches.

Cuban Workers Congress Calls for Boost in Production
The final report of the Cuban Workers Congress (CTC) meeting of 500 delegates called for workers to increase production and services, while recognizing their contributions during the "Special Period"--a crisis that began in the 90s with the disappearance of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe--and in particular, the economic advances over the past five years.

The document calls attention to the improvements in some of the 800 state owned enterprises and toward which principal efforts must be directed to substantially advance their efficiency. The report highlights the issues of employment and wages, pointing out that 230,000 workers received their wages via relocation or enrollment in training courses at a cost to the government of $150 million pesos ( about $5.6 million). It also refers to the need to bring production efficiency and productivity in line with the 2000 wage increases that benefitted more than 5 million individuals.

The text calls for an increase and improvement of workers
' training in the fulfillment of defense tasks in "recognition of barbaric U.S. forays in other parts of the world." The CTC, founded in 1939, now has 3,390,000 members, representing 96% of the nation's work force.

Wal-Mart's Filipino Workers Attacked and Fired for Striking
Workers producing clothes for Wal-Mart at the Korean-owned Chong Won Fashion garment factory in the Philippines desperately need the support of unions around the globe in order to put a stop to their employer's attempt to destroy their union through violence, mass firings and intimidation.

On Sept. 27, a combined force of municipal and free trade zone police and private security guards attacked the strikers who were peacefully picketing outside the factory gates, as the police escorted scab replacements into the factory. According to the Philippine Workers
' Assistance Centre (WAC), 22 union members were injured in the attack.

This is the second police assault on the picket line, since workers walked off the job on Sept. 25 to protest their employer
's refusal to negotiate a first collective bargaining contract and hired scabs to replace them. All strikers are expected to be fired. At least 66 workers have received termination notices. The police are also reportedly blocking food supplies from reaching the strikers in an apparent attempt to starve them out of the factory.

Wal-Mart, the factory
's major buyer, carried out an audit of the contracting company on Sept. 20, but it failed to live up to its commitment to meet with WAC to hear its side of the story or to put sufficient pressure on its supplier to cease all harassment, discrimination and abuse of union members.

Three More Teachers Are Murdered in Colombia
Since the start of 2006, a total of 22 Colombian teachers have been murdered, three of them in August. According to their union, the Federacion Colombiana de Ecuadores (RECODE), two of them had actually informed the authorities of the death threats they were receiving. No culprits have been identified by the authorities for any of the 22 murders.

In a letter to Columbian President Alvaro Uribe on Sept. 14, the Educational International (EI) emphatically condemns the assassination of teachers and calls for an immediate and broad investigation to find those who committed the crimes. EI has been working with its affiliate RECODE to promote trade union activities in Colombia. In August, the EI Latin American Regional Office organized a seminar on the fundamental rights at work for RECODE members.

On Sept. 26, EI will be joining the International Day of Action on Colombia, organized by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, that will demand the full implementation of the
"Tripartite Agreement on Freedom of Association and Democracy," signed by Colombia's three main unions, the employers and the government. EI encourages all of its affiliates around the world to show their solidarity with their Colombian colleagues.

French Car Manufacturer to Eliminate 10,000 Jobs
The French car maker Peugot announced Sept. 27 that it would cut 10,000 jobs over the next year in a drive to reduce costs and raise the profitability of the company. It said the job reductions would take place in France and Spain and would be achieved by a freeze on hiring when employees left the company.

Jean-Martin-Folz, Peugot
's chief executive, said his automotive group had decided to act because of its declining market share in Europe, ageing model lineup, slow startup for new models and increased competition. The latest cost reductions are in addition to an existing efficiency drive designed to cut costs by 700 million ($889 million).

Peugot is Europe
's second biggest auto maker that employs 130,000 workers in Europe and 208,000 worldwide.

Our two weekly columns (LaborTalk and The World of Labor) can be viewed and downloaded at our web site: <>.
Harry Kelber
's e-mail address is

No comments: