Protests rev up over detention of unionists and truck drivers in Korea
Transport workers and union activists demonstrated outside the Korean consulate in Sydney yesterday over the continued detention of striking truck drivers in Korea.
TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon and Labor Senator for NSW Sam Dastyari called on the Korean government to release those detained and end the attacks on union representatives in the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union.
At the centre of the dispute is a strike by drivers at food company Pulmuone since early September, in protest over a 20-year pay freeze and appalling safety conditions.
At least seven union members and officials are still in detention following police raids in recent weeks and summons have been issued for union leaders.
“This exposes the hypocrisy of Australia’s so-called free trade deal with Korea. This deal brings freedom to big corporations but is facilitating the exploitation of workers. What the Korean government is doing in repressing workers and their rights is against United Nations’ standards and is morally wrong,” says Sheldon.
The dispute is attracting solidarity across the world from union groups. The International Trade Union Confederation and the International Transport Workers’ Federation have condemned the actions of the Korean government against the Pulmuone workers and its broader attacks on workers’ rights.
A crowd of 30,000 marched in Seoul on Saturday against plans to make it easier to sack workers and cut their pay.
The UN body, the International Labour Organization, recently recognised Korean workers’ right to form and join a trade union and to strike.
Calls for safe and fair conditions for drivers at home and abroad
The Korean drivers’ action for safe and fair conditions mirrors the campaign in Australia by the TWU for safe rates for drivers.
Each year 330 people die in truck-related crashes while trucking is Australia’s deadliest profession with drivers 15 times more likely to die than any other profession.
Many of the crashes are related to pressure on drivers to speed, drive long hours, skip breaks and overload their vehicles. Wealthy retailers and manufacturers are ultimately responsible for this because they continually cut the cost of contracts for transport.
Pressure on drivers in South Korea is intense with around 1,200 dying each year in truck-related crashes. Overloading of trucks causes 38 per cent of truck-related crashes.
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