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Action Alert: Support migrant workers right to unionize in South Korea

By July 15, 2008 No Comments

Please show your support for the Migrants Trade Union and the right of migrant workers in South Korea to form and join trade unions. Send a statement [SCROLL BELOW] expressing support for MTU’s right to freedom of association to the South Korean Supreme Court.  

BACKGROUND
The Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union (MTU), an affiliated of the Korean Confederation of Trade unions, was formed in 2005 as a union for and by migrant workers regardless of visa status. We seek to improve working conditions, stop the crackdown against undocumented migrant workers and win migrant workers’ human and labor rights.
 
Since we were found the government of South Korea has sought to stop our activities, refusing to acknowledge our legal union status and targeting our leadership for arrest and deportation. This repression has grown even stronger in recent months. MTU’s second president, vice president and general secretary were arrested in a targeted crackdown and deported at the end of last year. And again, on May 2nd MTU’s third president and vice president were arrested by immigration officers who had been waiting in hiding for them and then deported on May 15th. The Ministry of Justice carried out the deportation despite the fact that the National Human Rights Commission had made a decision calling for a stay of deportation until its investigation into human rights violations during the arrests into was complete.
 
This heighten repression comes right as the Supreme Court decision that will decide on MTU’s legal union status draws near. The Ministry of Labor and South Korean government have been refusing to grant MTU legal union status based on the assertion that undocumented migrant workers do not have the right to freedom of association under Korean law. MTU has since been fighting to gain recognition. On February 1, 2007, the Seoul High Court, overturning a pervious decision, ruled in favor of MTU’s legal union status, stating clearly that undocumented migrant workers are recognized as workers under the South Korean Constitution and the Trade Union Law, and therefore the subjects of legally protected basic labor rights, including the right to freedom of association. The Ministry of Labor appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court where a decision is expected wit! hin this year, as early as next month.
 
International human rights conventions which South Korea has signed, and which it is bound to respect under its own Constitution, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) all protect the rights of workers regardless of social status to freedom of association. In particular, the CERD General Recommendation No. 30(2004) states that “guarantees against racial discrimination apply to non-citizens regardless of their immigration status” and that “all individuals are entitled to the enjoyment of labor and employment rights, including the freedom of assembly and association, once an employment relationship has been initiated until it is terminated.&! rdquo; In addition, ILO Convention No. 87 protects the right to freedom of association for all workers, “without distinction whatsoever” and has been shown to apply to undocumented migrant workers through Committee on Freedom of Association recommendations (UGT, 2001 and AFL-CIO/CTM, 2002). While South Korea has not ratified Convention No. 87, it is bound to uphold the rights protected in it as a member of the ILO under the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998).
 
Despite this basis in domestic and national law, the Ministry of Labor is still refusing to acknowledge MTU’s legal union status. The new conservative president Lee Myeong-bak has also stated he will not tolerate MTU. MTU’s needs the support of organizations around the world to assure it will gain the legal recognition it deserves!
 
International human rights and labor organizations and the South Korean National Human Rights Commission have all decided to send position statements in support of MTU to the Supreme Court. We are asking that your organization also issue a statement supporting MTU’s legal union status and send it by fax to the Supreme Court. Please also send a copy to the Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Justice. All statements will be announced at an upcoming press conference.

ACTION
A sample statement is included below. However, we welcome self-written statements reflecting the position of your organization as these send and even more powerful message.
 
Please send a copy of your statement to the KCTU at inter@kctu.org, and MTU at MTUintl@jinbo.net
 
Sample Position Statement
Supreme Court, Republic of Korea
Teukbyul 3bu  
219 Seocho-ro, Seocho-gu
Seoul 137-750
Republic of Korea
Fax: 02-2-533-2824
 
Ministry of Labor
427-718 Government Complex II,
Jungang-dong1, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do,
Republic of Korea
Fax: 82-2-3679-6581
 
Ministry of Justice, Republic of Korea
Building 1, Gwacheon Government Complex,
Jungang-dong 1, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
Republic of Korea
Fax: 82-2-2110-3079
 
Regarding Supreme Court Case No. 2007du 4995
 
To the Honorable Justices of the South Korean Supreme Court
 
The Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants Trade Union was founded in 2005 and has been carrying out legitimate union activities since. The South Korean Ministry of Labor and South Korean administration have refused to acknowledge MTU’s legal union status because its founders are undocumented migrant workers. However, as was shown in the Seoul High Court ruling of February 1, 2007, the South Korean Constitution and the Trade Union Law protect the right to freedom of association of all those who enter into employment relations as workers, including undocumented migrant workers.
 
International law to which South Korea is party including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) all protect the rights of workers, regardless of social status, to freedom of association. In particular, the CERD General Recommendation No. 30(2004) states that “guarantees against racial discrimination apply to non-citizens regardless of their immigration status” and that “all individuals are entitled to the enjoyment of labor and employment rights, including the freedom of assembly and association, once an employment relationship has been initiated until it is terminated.” In addition, ILO Convention No. 87, which South Korea is bound t! o uphold as a member of the ILO, protects the right to freedom of association for all workers, “without distinction whatsoever” and has been shown to apply to undocumented migrant workers through CFA recommendations (UGT, 2001 and AFL-CIO/CTM, 2002).
 
We are concerned that the Ministry of Labor’s denial of MTU’s union status is in contradiction to these international conventions and to South Korean domestic law. It is our position that countries that adhere to international human and labor rights standards must protect the right of migrant workers, regardless of visa status, to freedom of association. As such, it is our position that the denial of MTU’s legal union status should be reversed and MTU should be granted recognition.
 
We hope that the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court will take these matters into consideration and make a decision that upholds the South Korean Constitution and the international conventions to which South Korea is party.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Representative’s Name,
Organization

Lee Changgeun
International Executive Director
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Tel.: +82-2-2670-9234 Fax: +82-2-2635-1134
E-mail: inter@kctu.org Web-site : http://kctu.org
2nd Fl. Daeyoung Bld., 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul 150-032 Korea