Protesters demanded South Korea respect the right of workers to protest, strike and called for the withdrawal of repressive laws which would allow workers to be sacked easily and paid less.
“Workers are being violently attacked for standing up against policies which will impoverish their families. One protester has been left dead. Union leaders have been attacked and jailed, their offices raided and their organisations deregistered. South Korean President Park and her ruling party must end this repression now,” said Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, which organised the protest.
Rail and public service workers are particularly targeted by these rules. Truck drivers are also fighting for rights set down by the UN labour body, the International Labour Organization, including the right to organise and to be paid safe rates, so they can maintain their vehicles and safely carry out their work.
President of Amnesty International Australia Gabe Kavanagh told the protest: “Workers’ rights are human rights and South Korea must respect the international obligations it has signed up to ensure people can join unions and protest unfair policies.”
A report to the UN Human Rights Council in June said the South Korean government policies, “de facto criminalise the right to peaceful assembly”. The International Trade Union Confederation, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the European Transport Workers’ Federation have strongly condemned the attacks on workers and jailing of trade union leaders.
Sheldon added: “These issues affect us here in Australia. The current Federal Government signed a so-called free trade deal with South Korea which mean the low standards and oppression Koreans face today could be ours tomorrow.”
For photographs and video from the protest go to TWUAus Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TWUAus/
A petition on Korean worker abuse can be found here: https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/demand-for-south-korean-government-to-end-attacks-on-workers