April 8: The BWI sent today a strongly worded letter to President Moon Jae In to support International Labour Standards in South Korea. The letter, which was signed by BWI General Secretary, Ambet Yuson, was sent to Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland ahead of the national strike called by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions for 13 April. The letter was submitted at the request of the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trades Unions, an affiliate from South Korea.
The Republic of Korea has a long history of un-kept promises to protect the human rights of workers. Korean workers have been repeatedly disappointed as have their international organisations. The OECD and the ILO have also seen repeated assurances produce little or nothing.
BWI was very pleased that President Moon was elected on the pledge to ratify the critical ILO human rights Conventions; 87 on freedom of association and 98 on the rights to organise and bargain collectively. It was ill-prepared to be disappointed, once again.
Unfortunately, the effect of the ratification of those two key Conventions is being undermined by the refusal to place legislation in conformity with them and, in fact, there are even dangers that some legislative provisions will be worsened.
Two long-standing areas of violation of ILO standards on trade union rights under these two conventions are the exclusion of workers because of their employment relationships. This include those workers who are irregular, self-employed, contract workers, in disguised employment relationships and others in precarious work. There are also serious violations of the right to strike in both the private and public sectors. There is also, in violation of Convention 87, blatant government interference in eligibility for union membership and service in elected office.
In his letter to President Moon, BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson, asked him to, “as a matter of urgency, to use your good offices to put the ILO Convention process back on track so that this historic occasion is a step forward for the Republic of Korea and for its place in the international community rather than a cruel deception. The workers of Korea have a right to freely exercise their human rights as workers in accordance with international labour standards. They have always had the support of BWI and will continue to have it until justice is won.”
The President has begun a social dialogue process related to ratification of the two Conventions, however, rather than using it to put legislation in conformity with those Conventions, employers are pushing for even further violations of worker rights and the principles of the Conventions. As Yuson pointed out in his letter, “the purpose of such social dialogue is not to re-define or re-interpret international labour standards”.
Building and Wood Workers’ International fully supports the Korea Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) and their Confederation, the KCTU, in their April 13 Struggle for Granting Basic Labour Rights. General Secretary Yuson declared, “we will continue to stand with our members and other workers in the Republic of Korea in their fight for justice, human dignity, and the full protection and respect of their essential human rights as workers and citizens”.