Deregulation of transport safety can be lethal, say Korean unions

19 January 2015
Creating safe workplaces and a safe society. Under this slogan the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Committees for the Sewol ferry tragedy organized an international symposium on 1-3 December 2014 in Seoul.

Participants discussed the Sewol ferry tragedy, which occurred on 16 April 2014, in which 304 passengers died. They concluded that the tragedy resulted from a series of factors including the deregulation of safety management, outsourcing of safety related works, and inadequate reaction from management to previous safety incidents.

The main goals of the symposium were to develop social consensus on the importance of life and public and workplace safety; to diagnose and open public discussion on the structural cause of frequent large scale disasters and fatal industrial accidents; and to draw attention to international safety standards including ILO conventions and define measures to implement the instruments effectively.

Hiroo Aoba, PSI East Asia Sub-regional secretary, presented the PSI Research Unit’s report "Impact of liberalization on public safety in the transport, water and health care sectors."

He introduced case analysis of accidents in maritime and railroad transport sectors, and said that “in the maritime sector, competitive pressures after privatization and deregulation, where safety is not deeply embedded in corporate institutions and culture, incentivized reductions to investment, cuts in maintenance and training, and increased seafarers’ working hours.”

Aoba made some specific recommendations on trade unions’ role in matters of safety: to monitor existing public safety arrangements in public services and identify deficiencies, and to lobby for greater monitoring of quality of services and high standards of public safety

The international guests attended a press conference in the National Assembly and met key members of that assembly as well as family members of victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy.

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