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4 unions cut ties with KCTU, citing unnecessary strife

Others in the militant group say they will work with management

May 15,2009
Four construction unions canceled their memberships with the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, a sometimes-radical umbrella union that has staged political strikes and been embroiled in a recent series of scandals.

Workers from Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Hyundai Development Company, Hanshin Engineering and Construction and Chinhung International Incorporated said they are leaving the KCTU, according to a press release yesterday.

They are the latest in a growing exodus from the umbrella group. On April 10, labor unions of the Incheon International Airport Corporation and Incheon Rapid Transit Corporation, a subway operator in the port city west of Seoul, withdrew from the KCTU after holding a two-day vote. Unionized workers of Hyundai Construction said that instead of resolving problems and improving labor conditions, the KCTU concentrated on excessive political strife.

“We can no longer rely on top union leaders who concentrate on political struggle while living standards of union members are harmed by the slowdown in construction,” said Hyundai Construction union leader Lim Dong-jin.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday nine KCTU labor unions in Gyeonggi said they would participate in cooperative efforts to tackle economic and labor issues in a three-way dialogue among the government, labor and management for the first time, despite KCTU’s order not to do so. Gyeonggi Urban Innovation Corporation, under the more moderate Federation of Korea Trade Unions, also joined the effort. Among the nine were labor unions from six Gyeonggi Province-funded medical centers in Suwon, Uijeongbu, Paju, Icheon, Anseong and Pocheon.

Two others are from the culture sector and the last is from a state-run business supporting center.

They agreed that management should do everything it can to maintain a stable employment system while workers share jobs.

“Even though the umbrella union leaders warned us not to cooperate with the government and management, we decided otherwise since the aim of cooperative effort was right,” said Ko Hong-gil, the union leader of the Gyeonggi Small and Medium Business Center. “Since we ignored the order, we are likely to face punishment from the top. But we’ll accept that.”

“That all hard-line labor unions have participated in a dialogue is very meaningful,” Kim Moon-soo, the governor of Gyeonggi, said. Park Young-tae, the leader of the Paju hospital labor union, said, “We have the responsibility to take care of the health of local residents.” KCTU’s spokesman Lee Seung-chul said, “Something has happened that shouldn’t have.”



By Lee Min-yong, Kim Ki-chan [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]



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