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Laid-off Temp Workers Struggling to Survive

Posted July. 22, 2009 07:03,   


“The political standoff is frustrating me. I don’t want to watch news about politics, but I have no choice but to watch it to see where the bill on temporary workers is going. It just enrages me. It is an imperative issue to me but…”

Forty-one-year-old Kang was one of 145 temporary workers laid off by the state-run Korea Land Corp. June 30. The man broke down in mid-sentence, choked with emotion. Three weeks after being laid off, some of the workers got new jobs but most remained jobless.

The company said it will hire them back if the National Assembly passes a bill postponing implementation of a law requiring employers to make temporary workers permanent if they work for more than two years. While laid-off workers remain sensitive over the fate of the temporary workers’ bill, parliament has been deadlocked for weeks.

○ No offers after 15 interviews

Park, 29-year-old laid-off worker who is supporting his parents, said he is doing everything he can to reduce living costs. He earns 1.5 million won (1,200 U.S. dollars) a month as a government agency intern, but is saving money in case he finds no job after the internship ends in December.

His parents get water from a community well to save money and minimize spending for foods. His father has begun work as a park guard for 200,000 won (160 U.S. dollars) a month.

Park said he sent job applications to some 50 companies but got no offers after going to 15 interviews. This is because few companies are looking for staff since it is not hiring season.

“My income is not enough to support my three-member family. I have no idea how much money I can save until the end of the year,” he said. “I’m so worried over whether I can get a job next year that I can’t even sleep at night.”

Kang is answering every want ad he sees, but no company has invited him to an interview. With two children, he and his wife earned a combined 2.5 million won (2,000 U.S. dollars) per month, but this has been halved since his layoff.

He said with trepidation that the severance payment of three million won (2,403 dollars) he received from the land corporation will run out soon. He is thinking of working as a designated driver at night.

○ Matter of life and death

Some laid-off workers said they want to return to their previous jobs if the implementation of the temporary workers law is postponed. Others urged a fundamental solution, noting that a delay will be nothing but a stopgap measure.

“I’m so desperate that I hope to return to work for just a year or even six months,” Kang said. “But I’m frustrated by the political deadlock. The issue is a cause for politicians to fight, but for us, it’s a matter of life and death.”

Another laid-off worker said, “Even if the implementation of the law is delayed for a year or two, I’ll end up getting laid off again. I don’t want to go through this again.”

“If the employer wants us to work for them for a long time, shouldn’t they hire us permanently?”

Others said among the laid-off workers included the disabled, noting that no consideration was made for them.

Laid-off workers said they had no idea that a law intended to protect irregular workers ended up hurting them.

“I thought that the law would turn many irregular workers into regular ones or at least allow them to keep their jobs,” one of them said. “In reality, the situation is the opposition.”

“I might have no job to return to if the company chooses to hire other people.”