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From March to April, 2011, ten Vietnamese migrant workers who had worked for Taehung Construction a subcontractor for Hyundai Construction in constructing a container wharf in Incheon, South Korea, were arrested. The prosecution has charged them with “obstruction of business, interfering with the regular business operations of the company, inciting group violence, and assault with a deadly weapon for two walk-outs. The walk-outs were the result of long work hours, unjust working conditions and Taehung reneging components of the workers’ employment contract.
These workers worked a 12-hour shift with an hour break seven days a week for a minimum hourly wage of 4,110 KRW (2.6 Euros) even though their employment contract stipulated a five-day work week. Initially the workers were granted three free meals a day but the management informed them that starting from July, 2010, only lunch would be provided free and Taehung would deduct 240,000 KRW (150 Euros) from their monthly wages for breakfast and dinner. Taehung’s actions are in violation of South Korean Labour Standards Act which stipulate one day of rest and the workers’ employment contract.
As a result, the workers called on the management for improvements in their working conditions. The company responded by threatening to report them to the Ministry of Labour and have them deported. Due to this callous attitude of the company, the workers conducted a walk-out from July 22 to 25, 2010. The Taehung management responded by only recognizing eleven hours of work even though they worked twelve hours, further angering the workers who conducted another walk-out from January 9 to 10, 2011.
For these actions, the prosecution has charged these workers with “obstruction of business, interfering with the regular business operations of the company, inciting group violence, and assault with a deadly weapon for two walk-outs. The prosecution also claims that the illegal strike caused significant financial losses to Taehung. At the first trial which took place on May 26, the prosecution sought prison sentences ranging from one to three years for the workers. The next hearing is to take place on June 20, 2011.
The Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions, one of BWI’s affiliates in South Korea has been actively involved in supporting these workers. They along with migrant rights organizations, civil society groups, and human rights organizations have established a support network and currently are collecting petitions that will be submitted to the judge presiding over the case prior to their next trial scheduled for June 20, 2011.
Please sign onto the petition today.
Korea, Republic of (14/06/2011 - 31/12/2011)
ACT NOW! Support Vietnamese migrant workers in South Korea
Source: BWI affiliate
BWI Action: Your Honour, We are very concerned about the recent arrest and the on-going trial of ten Vietnamese migrant workers. These workers along with 200 other Vietnamese migrants were hired by Taehung Construction to construct the substructure of a container wharf at the Incheon New Port beginning in 2010. The Prosecution has charged them with several crimes including “obstruction of business, interfering with the regular business operations of the company, inciting group violence, and assault with a deadly weapon”. The prosecution claims the workers had conducted an illegal strike, through which they caused significant financial losses to Taehung. The walk-outs were the result of long work hours, unjust working conditions and Taehung reneging components of the workers’ employment contract. These workers work in two 12-hour shifts with an hour break, seven days a week for an hourly minimum wage. Initially their meals were covered by Taehung in accordance with their employment contract but in July, 2010 they were unilaterally informed that the costs of their meals with the exception of lunch would be automatically deducted from their monthly wages. Taehung’s actions are in violation of the South Korean Labour Standards Act which guarantees all workers one day of rest and the workers’ employment contract that had stipulated a five-day work week and paid meals. When the workers complained seeking for improvement, Taehung responded by threatening to report them to the Ministry of Labour and have them deported. The workers staged walk-outs which resulted in their imprisonment. In the course of the trial it has come to light that some of the arrested workers had only worked at the construction site for less than a week and thus were not aware of the circumstances to the walk-outs. This clearly challenges the credibility of the prosecutions indictment against the workers. Your honour, we sincerely hope that you will find these workers not guilty of the charges considering their horrendous working conditions and the heartless practices of the management who refused to address their concerns. We also raise questions to the legitimacy of the prosecution’s charges. Clearly these factors warrant the workers’ immediate release. If these workers are found guilty they will all be subject to forcible deportation under the Immigration Control Act and will forever hold a criminal record, making it difficult for them to continue with their lives and adequately provide for their families.