PSI welcomes ILO ‘s strong line on Korea
In a strongly worded decision issued this week the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) reminded the
Government of the Republic of Korea of its commitment to ratify two main ILO Conventions. Korea’s promise to ratify ILO
Convention 87 (on freedom of association) and Convention 98 (right to collective bargaining) dates back to 1998.
The CFA expressed its “deep regret” at the Government’s serious and extensive interference in the activities of the
Korean Government Employee’s Union (KGEU). It asks the Government to “immediately cease all acts of interference, in
particular the forced closure of KGEU offices nationwide, the unilateral discontinuance of the check-off facility, the
disallowance of collective bargaining, the pressure on KGEU members to resign from the union…”
Referring to the controversial Act on Establishment and Operation of Public Officials’ Trade Unions, which severely
limits the rights of public officials to pursue trade union activities, the CFA called on the Government to ensure that
all public servants, regardless of their grade, tasks or functions, have the right to form their own associations to
defend their interests. The Government was requested to fully guarantee the autonomy of trade unions of public servants
to bargain on behalf of their members. The CFA added that any restrictions on the right to strike of public servants
should be limited to those employed in delivering essential services in the strict sense of the term.
The CFA also said that the South Korean Government should take rapid steps to legalise trade union pluralism at
enterprise level, so that workers truly have the right to establish and join the organisation of their own choosing.
Hans Engelberts, General Secretary of the Global Union Federation Public Services International (PSI), welcomed the
CFA’s recommendations: “The Committee has been examining this case since1995. The South Korean Government should now
implement the Committee’s clear recommendations without further delay. In particular, I hope that the Government will
now recognise the legitimacy of our affiliate, the KGEU, and will refrain from the acts of intimidation and repression
that have so far characterised its relations with the KGEU”.
Hans Engelberts said that the CFA’s conclusions also called into question the June 12 decision by the OECD Council to
terminate the monitoring mandate of the organisation’s Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Committee on Korean labour
law and reform. At the time of its accession to the OECD, the South Korean Government made a commitment “to reform
existing laws on industrial relations in line with internationally accepted standards, including those concerning