[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Employers treat student workers unfairlyMy job was compiling data into an Excel spreadsheet for a small business. It was a part-time job after school, but I was never paid.
I started working as a “contract worker,” or a part-timer, at the end of February, on the understanding that I would work for three months. I was fired in early April.
I do not know the reason for the dismissal. I was just told the company did not need a part-time worker any more. I was, however, promised pay for the work I did, on their payday at the end of the month.
But I have not yet received any payment.
My case is just one small example of how young student workers are treated unfairly. In a survey on an Internet Web site devoted to part-time jobs, 37.6 percent, or 822 out of 2,184 respondents, most of them students, said they were upset at being “treated unfairly at part-time jobs.”
Among the respondents, 24.8 percent said their working conditions were different from what they were promised when they started working. These included demands to do additional work, receiving lower pay and being moved to another position without any explanation.
Others complained about “neglect of personal rights” (14.6 percent),” and “unpaid wages” (10.4 percent).
All workers are guaranteed the minimum wage, which is now 3,100 won, or a bit more than $3 per hour, according to the Minimum Wage Act. However, there are many part-time jobs that are not paid even the minimum wage. A friend who worked at a convenience store for 2,800 won per hour said she did not know what the official minimum wage is. Her employer at that convenience store said, “Isn’t that the standard? Isn’t the wage at convenience stores supposed to be 2,800 won per hour? I think that is enough.”
Many students need to take part-time jobs. Knowing this, many employers might be thinking, “if you don’t like it, don’t work. There are others out there who would appreciate your job.”
For this reason, many students endure unfair treatment as workers.
Obviously, many employers and workers are not aware of labor rights. I think the reason for their lack of knowledge is a lack of education about labor. Labor education can be as basic as teaching how much the minimum wage is now and what a worker can do when receiving unfair treatment.
I am also upset because schools are not doing anything to teach or help students when most of them work as part-time workers. Hanchongryon, or the South Korea Federation of University Student Councils, is no better. The student group is only interested in raising their political voice.
They are not particularly interested in the rights of student workers. Due to this indifference, most student workers do not act against unjust treatment because they don’t know what to do.
My own regret is that had I known my work rights earlier and signed a contract with my former employer, my problem would have been easily solved. Now I have to get my unpaid wages out of my employer the hard way.
* The writer is the former editor-in-chief of The Hanyang Journal, an English news magazine of Hanyang University.
by Jo Eun-a
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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