(AFP) – Nov 25, 2009
SEOUL — South Korea's two umbrella union bodies threatened Thursday to stage a rare joint strike next month in protest over the government's plan to weaken unionism.
The move came as talks involving unions, management and the government faltered over a bill proposed by President Lee Myung-Bak to bring greater flexibility to South Korea's labour market.
The bill would allow multiple unions at each workplace, recognise only one of them as a negotiating partner for management and ban wages for full-time unionists who spend most of their company time on union work.
Unions have opposed the bill saying it would restrict their activity but the government has vowed to push ahead with new labour rules from January next year.
"From today, we will make preparations for an all-out struggle against the government," the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said in a statement.
The militant labour grouping, which has some 500,000 members, said it would sponsor a series of anti-government rallies next month.
The Federation of Korean Trade Unions with more than 700,000 members said it would go on a joint strike with KCTU members next month unless the government changes its stance by the end of this month.
Meanwhile, railway workers went on a strike Thursday, demanding managers approve higher wages and reinstate dismissed striking workers.
The 25,000-strong union of KORAIL, the country's railway monopoly, said about 16,000 members walked out.
KORAIL said the industrial action paralysed 96 percent of its cargo train service. But the passenger train service remained unaffected as alternative staff replaced striking workers.
The railway service accounts for about seven percent of South Korea's passenger and cargo transportation.
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