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Korean airport staff strike against corporate union-busting

12 November 2013
Hair-cutting ceremony in South Korea
Following the three-hour warning strike on November 5, contracted workers at Incheon International Airport, members of the KPTU Incheon Airport Regional Branch, held a 24-hour strike on 11 November. Close to 1,000 workers gathered for the strike rally.

An on-site investigation carried out by Democratic Party National Assembly members on November 6 confirmed that on October 28, airport corporation representatives held a meeting with contracting company managers at which they presented a six-step plan for breaking the union.
This plan consists of the following steps:

  1. Airport Corporation publicly labels the strike illegal;
  2. Airport Corporation demands that contracting companies ‘replace’ the workers who play leadership roles in the strike,
  3. Contracting companies fire these workers;
  4. Use delay tactics should the union use legal avenues to challenge unfair labor practices;
  5. Make efforts to induce remaining union members to leave the union;
  6. Eradicate the union.  

Following the meeting, the Airport Corporation sent a memorandum to each contracting company explaining its plan to label the strike illegal and then official ask the companies to “replace” union leaders and members. Contracting company managers have also sent letters to the union referring to the strike as illegal and threatening disciplinary actions against strike participants. One contracting company has already begun transferring union members out of their original posts to less favorable positions.
The National Assembly members also confirmed that another meeting with contracting companies was held on November 5, during which Airport Corporation representatives told contracting company managers, “Companies that cannot stop workers from participating in the strike will have their contracts cancelled” and then announced their plans to “only contract with non-union companies in the future.”

In the last few days, the Airport Corporation has stepped up its surveillance and intimidation tactics, denouncing legal and peaceful protest actions such as the wearing of union vests during work hours ‘illegal industrial actions’ and threatening strike participants with dismissal, criminal charges and suits for damages.

At the end of the 11 November rally, Branch President Seong-deok Jo and KPTU Incheon Airport Strategic Organizing Campaign Coordinator Gil-suk Min carried out a ritual hair shaving ceremony to demonstrate their resolve for the upcoming struggle. The union branch has vowed to go on strike indefinitely on November 16 if the Airport Corporation and contracting companies refuse to come to the bargaining table.        


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