Teachers’ union granted injunction

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Teachers’ union granted injunction

A local court yesterday granted an injunction to the country’s second-largest teachers’ union, barring the government from treating it as an unlawful group.

The Seoul Administrative Court yesterday accepted most of the challenges filed by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) against Minister of Labor Phang Ha-nam, ruling that the union will remain legitimate during the legal battle.

The 24-year-old union was stripped of its status as a lawful union on Oct. 24 for keeping dismissed teachers in its ranks. Despite the ministry’s ultimatum to the union to amend its bylaws, the union kept nine former teachers as members.

After the ministry stripped the KTU of its legal status, the union filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s actions, while filing an injunction to stay legal during the court battle.

The Seoul Administrative Court yesterday ruled that the union will suffer irrecoverable damage if the ministry’s decision remains effective during the court case.

The ministry’s measure will seriously hinder the union’s activities, such as collective bargaining under the law governing the establishment and operation of trade unions for teachers, and those damages are deemed irreparable, the court said.

“To prevent such damages, there is no other way but to grant the injunction,” it added.

“Since its establishment in 1999, the union has had about 60,000 members,” the ruling said. “The ministry’s decision to take away the union’s legal status would actually expand a legal dispute and influence the education conditions of students. If the injunction is not granted, the public’s well-being would be affected.”

Founded in 1989 as an illegal union (at the time, public servants including teachers were banned from participating in political activities or expressing political views), KTU was fully legalized in 1999. The group enjoyed 14 years of legitimacy before being stripped of its legal status last month.

Welcoming the court’s ruling, the union said yesterday that it will focus its efforts to revise the law governing teachers’ unions in order to find a fundamental resolution to the situation.

“Of all countries worldwide, only Korea has a law that makes it illegal to give union memberships to dismissed workers,” said Kim Jeong-hoon, the head of KTU. “That must be revised as soon as possible.”

Following the ruling, the Ministry of Labor said it will ask the city and provincial education offices to stop any follow-up measures to illegalize the union.

After the union was stripped of its status in October, the ministry ordered 76 teachers working full time as union representatives to return to their schools. Some teachers, however, did not immediately return, deciding to wait for further action from the court. KTU is entitled to state subsidies for the time being.

Stressing that the injunction is only a temporary measure, the ministry vowed it would make a strong case to the court.

“The union has intentionally ignored current laws,” it said. “We will make it clear that our measure was appropriate to correct the union’s illegality.”

The first hearing in the case is scheduled to take place next month at the Seoul Administrative Court.


BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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