|Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union president Kim Jeong-hoon (center) and union members on Monday hold a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap News)|
A progressive teachers’ group vowed Monday to escalate its fight against the government’s move to deprive it of its status as a legal trade union.
The Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union is planning to file a petition to the U.N. Human Rights Council and International Labor Organization to press the government to reverse its decision to deregister the union, KTU spokesman Ha Byeong-soo said in a press conference on Monday.
The union will also file suits against the decision at local courts with assistance from 40 attorneys from a progressive lawyers’ group.
The union threatened to take collective leave and hold a massive rally as well.
The Labor Ministry has given the progressive union an ultimatum, saying it will deregister the union, thus making it unlawful, unless it amends its constitution to ban dismissed and retired teachers from being members. The KTU, however, has decided not to follow the order after the members voted down the rule change.
The union said Monday that the ministry is “over practicing” its authority in its threat to demobilize it.
“(The ministry’s) act to deregister us, because we have dismissed teachers as members is not based on the applicable law,” Kim Jeong-hoon, president of KTU said in a news conference.
“It’s not us who violate the law, but them,” Kim said, adding that the union is looking to file a complaint with the International Labor Organization against the Korean government.
About 68.5 percent of participants in its vote last week approved a proposal to disobey the government’s order to oust dismissed teachers.
Currently, the union allows 22 dismissed teachers to maintain their membership.
The KTU was established in 1989 and legalized in 1999. The loss of its legal status will bring immediate, adverse effects, observers say. It would mean that it could no longer engage in legitimate negotiations with schools, nor be eligible to receive financial support and various benefits from the regional education offices.
For instance, the Ministry of Education currently provides the union with 5.2 billion won ($4.9 million) to subsidize rent. Also, teachers who currently work full-time for the union will have to return to their schools, which may result in an acceleration of members leaving the union, experts say.
Kim, however, said, all KTU members will stand their position despite the government’s decision to make it an illegal union.
He noted that the union is considering holding a nationwide vigil and the teachers will take days off through additional vacation leave from school to participate.
“We understand the action will affect students, but we will decide (whether to take a strike) according to the government’s decision,” he added.
By Oh Kyu-wook and Suk Gee-hyun