South Korea: Unions to ensure workers’ wages as COVID-19 is put “under control”

03 April 2020 10:38

The Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) is taking action to ensure that workers, especially those on daily employment contracts, on several construction sites that shut down due to COVID-19, are paid in full. While most construction projects continued to operate without any real stoppage, around ten sites were closed for a few days. 

Photo: KFCITU President Jang Ok-Ji

“As far as we know there have been no job losses as a result of COVID-19. However, the limited supply of building materials is creating challenges. We are expecting that there will be fewer jobs in the future as the industry shrinks,” said Jang Ok-Ji, President of KFCITU, speaking from prison. 

“We have cancelled large union gatherings and toolbox meetings. We have also implemented fixed schedules for the use of our canteens to minimise close contact with fellow workers,” Jang added.

The number of cases has reached almost ten thousand and is still rising, but South Korea is one of the few countries that has been able to successfully flatten the curve of COVID-19 without resorting to a total lockdown, with only limited disruption to construction work.

It was reported that South Korea’s infection rate began slowly – registering only 30 cases between 19 January and 18 February. However, ten days later, the number shot up to 2,300 registered cases. A radical testing regime was immediately put in place on March which resulted in the capacity to run 20,000 tests per day. 

“We are very sad for those who have lost their loved ones and workmates, but the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus have so far been very effective.” Jang said “We wish to extend our solidarity to all the working people around the world. We call on them to take necessary steps to observe hygiene and social distancing precautions to keep themselves safe.”