Police in South Korea have raided the offices of a truckers’ union as part of an ongoing dispute with the food company Pulmuone
On the morning of 6 November, the South Korean police attempted a raid on the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions affiliated Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU). The 200 police arrested seven union members in an attempt to gag and intimidate the union, which is involved in a high profile dispute with the food products company Pulmuone.
The pretext for the raid was a police investigation of a high altitude protest being carried out by striking KPTU Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) owner driver members who haul goods for Pulmuone.
In addition to searching the TruckSol office on the 2nd floor of the KPTU building, police attempted to raid upper floors housing the KPTU secretariat and other KPTU-affiliated institutions.
They were stopped by protesting union members and supporters.
The KPTU-TruckSol Pulmuone Chapter began striking on 4 September, calling on Pulmuone to take responsibility for union recognition, safety and decent conditions in its supply chain. Since 24 October two Pulmuone Chapter members have been carrying out a high-altitude protest atop a billboard toward in front of the National Assembly building in Seoul.
This fight is part of KPTU-TruckSol’s decade long struggle for safe rates and client responsibility. Instead of listening to truck drivers’ just demands however, the government and police have chosen the route of repression. In addition to the raid on the KPTU office, arrest warrants have been issues for some dozen KPTU-TruckSol officers and members. On 11 November 7 KPTU TruckSol members were arrested in relation to these warrants and are currently in custody.
The KPTU is now working together with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to protest the government’s labour market reform policies, which will make layoffs easier and expand precarious work. This raid on the KPTU office must be understood as part of a wider attempt to suppress the democratic labour movement ahead of mass worker protests scheduled for November 14 and further strike action later. It is also reminiscent of the police raid on the KCTU office in the midst of the KPTU-Korean Railway Workers’ Strike in December 2013.
Trade union activists in Korea expressed outrage at this attempted raid, which was both an act of repression against KPTU-TruckSol’s legitimate struggle for safety, standard rates and union rights for truck drivers and an attempt to intimidate the entire KPTU in the fight against the government’s anti-worker policies.
Tony Sheldon, general secretary of the Transport Workers of Australia, said “Last week’s raid and the subsequent arrests were clearly an attempt to gag and intimidate the union. The response both from the union and its colleagues worldwide has shown how badly that attempt failed.”
The union is asking for support:
“We will not back down in the face of this intimidation. We demand that the government and police stop their repression of the Pulmuone workers’ struggle for client responsibility, fairness and safety, and apologise for its unfounded and excessive raid on the KPTU office.
“Many unions around the word have already expressed their willingness to stand in solidarity with us. This outpouring of support is greatly appreciated and is much needed to stop further repression. We thus ask for your support by delivering a protest letter to the Korean Embassy or Consulate in your country in person, by email or fax.
Please also fax a copy to Pulmuone (fax: +82 2 6499 0137, + 82 42 627 2112) or upload to Pulmuone’s Facebook
Letters from unions in the U.S. can be mailed to Pulmuone’s U.S. office at: 2315 Moore Avenue, Fullerton, CA 92833
Please also send a copy to the KPTU by fax (+82 2 497 0444) or email .
Unions in the U.S. and Japan can also support the Pulmuone workers’ struggle and help bring Pulmuone to the negotiating table by picketing at Pulmuone’s overseas offices. Please contact us to coordinate if you can organise such an action. (Contact: Wol-san Liem)
With your support we promise so stand strong and continue our fight!