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Skipped out on Strike? Cough up!

Posted November. 03, 2004 23:06,   


The “Local Construction Labor Union for Eastern South-Jeolla Province,” a labor union constituted of contract workers from over 150 construction sites in the Kwangyang and Suncheon area in South Jeolla Province, stirred up controversy for collecting as much as two million won from its members who did not participate in the strike under the pretext of an endowment for the development of the union.

It was confirmed on November 3 that the labor union categorized the members who were not present at the strike into three groups and set different amounts of “endowments” to be collected. The union went as far as to obtain notes or memoranda from those who were unable to pay the allotted amount up front, which state that they will pay the due amount by certain dates.

The union went on strike for 42 days from July 13 when the wage negotiation with 73 professional construction companies in Kwangyang and Suncheon area was broken off. Two thousand workers in six fields, including machinery, pipes, welding, electricity, and others, are currently affiliated with the union, and 1,200 among them participated in the strike.

After the strike, the labor union sorted through the list of absentees and categorized them into three groups. The union imposed a two million won fine on the members who went out of the area to work just prior to the strike, one million won for those who started working outside the region at least a year before the strike, and it will have other members who did not show up at the assemblies pay a certain amount for each day of the missed events.

The union collected as little as 200,000 won to as much as two million won from its members and gave them receipts. The union members are currently paying one percent of their monthly wage as membership dues.

A 46-year-old union member, who set off for work outside the area last year and returned to Kwangyang at the beginning of this November, said that he “paid the labor union one million won and, so far, about 100 members paid as well,” and that, “There was no other choice but to pay because we can hardly find a job unless we seek it through the union.”

Another member, 47, who paid 300,000 won, confided, “Some of the members who were to pay one million won couldn’t pay the amount in full. Instead, they paid half and wrote a note to pledge that they’ll pay the rest when they get their next month’s pay.”

Regarding this incident, the labor union said that it was agreed at the general assembly of the union members and the meeting of representatives to collect endowment from those who were not at the strike through legitimate procedures, and that it was not a forced collection but a voluntary entrustment of donations.

“We cannot identify who paid so far or the total amount collected,” a union official said, “The amounts of funds were appropriated considering the fairness for the members who sacrificed 40 days of work for the strike when they would rather be out there making money, and we plan to return the donations if any of the members object about their endowment.”

Seung-Ho Jung shjung@donga.com