The Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) and other federations affiliated to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) celebrated May Day by holding rallies across South Korea.
A total of 50,000 workers joined the rallies, including 20,000-strong union members in the capital city of Seoul. Their demands include the scrapping of proposed labour reform bills, removal of the Labour Minister, ensuring the chaebol companies are held accountable for their role in the economic crisis, raising the minimum wage, implementing a 35-hour work week, and guaranteeing labour rights to disguised employees, irregular workers, teachers and government employees.
Protestors took to the street with various pickets and banners representing their demands. Hundreds of workers marched in lines with red umbrellas in their hands, symbolizing the protection that trade provide workers. KFCITU members marched with a giant hammer, representing the role of construction workers in building a new world.
KFCITU President Baik Seok Geun said, “Our participants in the May Day rally should keep in mind the struggles of unorganised irregular workers, disguised employees and other workers that are regularly denied their basic labour rights.” He added that, “all members of KFCITU will be together with KCTU organizations in its struggle for basic labour rights for all workers.”
Since the end of last year, the KFCITU has been under attack from the South Korean Government. Nearly a dozen members were arrested on the charge of violence in the 14 November rally last year, and five tower crane operators have been arrested for blackmail. Many BWI affiliates have sent solidarity messages to KFCITU, including the PFBWW (Pakistan), TKTMS (India), CFMEU (Australia), FIRST Union (NZ), STIEU (Malaysia), BWTUC (Cambodia) and Byggnads (Sweden), who handed over protest letters to South Korean embassies in their respective countries. Many BWI-affiliated unions showed their sympathy by taking pictures of their members with solidarity messages. Profbud of Ukraine, Unia of Switzerland, Byggnads of Sweden and BWI’s Asia-Pacific staff sent solidarity postcards to imprisoned members.
Fortunately, almost all members were given suspended sentences and have now been released, except the tower crane operators. BWI is preparing to submit a complaint regarding the tower crane operators’ case to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association.