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State human rights watchdog calls for protection of couriers

  • Published : Oct 29, 2020 - 15:16
  • Updated : Oct 30, 2020 - 10:02

A logistics center in Songpa, southern Seoul, emptied of workers on the day of a strike Tuesday. (Yonhap)

A public human rights watchdog on Thursday issued a message of condolence over the deaths of more than a dozen couriers here, and called for legislation to ensure better working conditions.

Choi Young-ae, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s chairperson, said in a statement that the novel coronavirus pandemic had exposed the injustices experienced by workers in vulnerable sectors.

“The demand for delivery services shot up due to the coronavirus situation, which led to an overwhelming workload for the couriers. Couriers are having to work longer hours in inadequate working conditions,” she said.

Choi urged the country’s lawmakers to strengthen laws on worker protection, as the related bills remain pending in the parliament.

“Health and safety at work are the most basic rights that should be afforded to workers everywhere,” she said. “The commission will continue to strive for a safety-first work culture.”

The Labor Standards Act does not recognize couriers -- who are “special contract” workers -- as employees, thereby denying them many of the rights guaranteed to employees under the law, such as mandatory vacation days and retirement benefits.

So far this year 14 couriers have died. Their deaths have been attributed to overwork and other unfair practices at work. According to the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, delivery workers work seven days a week for a total of over 70 hours on average.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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