South Korea, Seoul: Trade Union workers/strikers clash with cops after rail strike declared illegal (more information and analysis here) (videos here and here) 22/12/13
Since the link seems to be fucked, I’m putting the report here:
“Police detained more than 120 labor activists in the first raid of a powerful labor organization in central Seoul on Sunday to arrest union leaders wanted for leading an “illegal” railway strike.
Violent clashes erupted at 9:35 a.m. as some 500 policemen entered the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, where the strike leaders were believed to be hiding.
Police broke windows on doors and fired tear gas to break up protesters who barricaded themselves and sprayed fire extinguishers.
This is the first time the police forced their way into the office of the KCTU, one of the two largest umbrella labor organizations.
Police brought more than 120 protesters to nearby police stations.
The railway union, with the backing of the KCTU, is calling for the cancellation of what they call a “privatization plot” by the Korea Railroad Corp. About 6,500 unionized workers of the state-run railway operator have staged a strike since Dec. 9 against the government’s plan to set up an affiliate for a new bullet train service.
On the 14th day of the walkout, police declared an all-out war, deployed some 4,000 officers on the scene and fired tear gas into the building.
During the process, police removed Unified Progressive Party Reps. Kim Sun-dong, Lee Sang-kyu and Oh Byung-yun from the scene.
“We can no longer neglect the “privatization” claim that is unsubstantial and causing social unrest and economic malaise,” Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Suh Seoung-hwan said in an announcement.
Suh stressed that establishing an affiliate under the new bullet train service is a measure to boost efficiency of the operations and to overcome the operator’s prolonged debt crisis, saying the union’s privatization claim was fictitious.
“The court has issued warrants for leading figures in the railway strike, and no organization or individual can be an exemption,” Security and Public Administration Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said.
Meanwhile, the main opposition democratic party called for the government to stop entering the union’s building by force and to solve the problem peacefully.
“The repression is not the end of the strike but the beginning of a bigger disaster,” Democratic Party floor spokesman Park Soo-hyun said, adding that the responsibility of all problems that may result from the suppression lies with the Park Geun-hye administration.
The ruling Saenuri Party said the move is just a law enforcement matter for union leaders who disobeyed the summons of the court.
“The railway union should stop taking the citizens hostage for their strike, and come to the discussion table,” Saenuri spokesman Yoo Il-ho said.
The privatization plot of KORAIL’s new service departing from Suseo in Gangnam, Seoul, has emerged as the biggest domestic challenge for President Park Geun-hye’s fledgling administration.
Despite the government’s insistence that the new bullet train service would not be privatized, the union and protesters have firmly kept its stance on the spinoff project’s cancellation.
The strike, the longest in Korean history, has already disrupted KTX, ITX, subway and freight train operations. The country’s KTX and freight service operations are currently down to 70 and 30 percent, respectively, according to KORAIL.
So far, four offices of the railway union across the nation were seized, and warrants for the detainment of two union leaders have been issued.
On Sunday, one of the two members was issued with an arrest warrant and the other one was questioned to determine the warrant’s validity.” 22/12/13
Since link seems to be unstable (ie keeps on disconnecting), the full text of the article is here:
“KORAIL UNION ENDS STRIKE WHILE MANAGEMENT VOWS DISCIPLINE
Unionists of the state-run railway operator KORAIL on Tuesday ended a 22-day walkout and returned to their workplaces.
However, they vowed to continue their struggle against the government’s approval of the establishment of a KORAIL affiliate, which will run the new bullet train route out of Suseo in southwestern Seoul from as early as 2015.
“All union members returned and resumed their work as of 11 a.m. We will go back to our normal duties,” said Choi Eun-cheol, spokesman of the union.
KORAIL chief executive Choi Yeon-hye confirmed the resumption of operation at a press conference held in the afternoon.
“Those who returned will be able to practice their shifts after taking a three-day safety training,” she said. “Therefore, we expect the metros to be normalized by Jan. 6 and KTX operation to be around Jan.14. We will make sure that people won’t suffer from the aftermath of the walkout on the Lunar New Year’s Day (that falls on Jan. 31),” she added.
The railway chief claimed that the affiliate establishment will be the solution to reinforce KORAIL, whose debt snowballed to 17 trillion won [£9,758m] due to what she calls lax management. “We hope that the operation normalization will get us into the black in 2015,” she said.
“KORAIL can now focus on building grounds for the Trans-Korean Railway and the Trans-Siberian Railroad reaching Europe. This will be a chance for us to catch up with the leading nations in railway operations,” she said.
Tough punishments are awaiting those who have led the strike. The KORAIL chief showed less generosity when announcing that the punishment process has already been launched against the leaders of the strike. The police said Tuesday that they have apprehended three ranking officials of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union and are about to spot more.
But still, the unionists are also seeing no sign of accepting the KORAIL’s plan, which they believe would eventually lead to the privatization of the train service, creating massive layoffs and great inconvenience to the service users.
“We are starting another struggle in our workplaces,” Choi Eun-cheol said. Union members are considering taking legal actions against the management to nullify the punishment.
The strike that kicked off on Dec. 9 has brought the country’s railway service on halt, resulting in military and public service workers’ replacing the vacuum to avoid a possible traffic fiasco.
The cessation of the strike came after the unionists, government and political circle on Monday agreed to set up a subcommittee on rail industry development consisting of the same number of lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri and main opposition Democratic parties. The committee can form an advisory panel to include officials from KORAIL and experts, to ensure no railway privatization takes place.
The umbrella Korean Confederation of Trade Unions said it respects the railway workers’ decision, but that it will carry on the plan to hold three more general strikes on Jan. 9, 16 and 25 against the politically and socially sensitive agenda.”
Coming after this “general strike” (some doubts whether it was really a “general strike”), once again it’s not hard to speculate on why the union has called off the strike. 31/12/13