- Press conference of labor and women groups for the abolition of discriminatory practices for married women workers with declaration of boycott for Kumbokju

On the 29th of March at 11:30 a.m., a priest punched a sign that reads retirement after marriage with his fist with all his strength in Gwanghwamun Square. It was a part of the press conference that Women and labor groups such as the Korea Women Workers Association and the National Women's Labor Union held in Gwanghwamun Square. It was held to condemn the Ministry of Employment and Labor for failing to supervise as well as to declare a nationwide boycott on Kumbokju, which has been forcing married female workers to retire for 58 years.


 The retirement due to marriage is still alive in our society despite our belief, at least in Kumbokju. Ms. A, who was working for the company was forced to retire after informing the company of her marriage. After she turned it down, an executive came and said that it was the company's practice to quit when a worker gets married. In fact, there are no married women workers among the white-collar workers in the company. The employers have operated the company in this way for 58 years since its founding without any sanctions. This was revealed when Ms. A appealed to the Ministry of Employment and Labor.


 This case created a big stir In Daegu. Local women 's groups called for apology and prevention of recurrence of the same practices in joint actions. Kumbokju made a superficial apology. During this process, Park Hong-koo, the CEO of the company, generated a bigger controversy by saying that the company didn’t recruit female workers because they weren’t necessary. The right of women workers to work regardless of their marital status is also specified in the Constitution and the Equal Employment Act. Also, Chapter 2 of the Equal Employment Act stipulates equal opportunities and treatment for men and women.


 Women's groups in Daegu will declare boycott campaign on Kumbokju and will hold a launching ceremony tomorrow. The women groups present in the press conference declared a nationwide boycott.


 Jin-kyung Bae, Co-representative of Korean Women Workers Association said that we are living in the era of regression. She commented that she wishes to live in a country where basic labor rights for women are ensured pointing out the fact that practice of forcing resignation to married women is still in place, which was supposed to have been abolished by the Equal Employment Act enacted on 1988.


 The Chairperson of National Women's Labor Union and Chairman, Ji Hyun Na said that no persons in the National Assembly and the government is taking responsibility for this matter. She claimed that it is caused by the Ministry of Employment and Labor since it has overlooked such practices for 58 years.


 The acting commissioner of the KCTU, Jong-jin Choi, openly declared that the 80,000 union members of the KCTU will take the lead for the boycott campaign against Kumbokju.


 The women and labor groups that hosted the press conference are planning to carry out nationwide boycott campaign against Kumbokju. They will show how companies that do not observe the business ethics can face difficulties in management. At the same time, they will ask for a meeting to the Ministry of Employment and Labor to demand an nationwide investigation on the violation of the Equal Employment Act with a focus on Seongseo Industrial Complex in Dague, where Kumbokju is located.



<Press conference statement>


 In 1985, women groups insisted on eliminating the retirement age for women. At that time, the average age of marriage for women was 26, which led to an assumption that they can stay in the labor market only until the age of 25. It was a fight against early retirement at the age of 25. The 1987 Act on the Equal Employment Act stipulates the right not to be discriminated due to marriage. Since then, the practices of women's early retirement have gradually disappeared in our society.


 Nevertheless in 2016, we are facing bizarre situations. The retirement due to marriage, which we thought already disappeared, was roaming like a ghost. It took place in Kumbokju, a major liquor company in Daegu. All female workers have been laid off after their marriage for 58 years since the establishment of the company. There is only one female worker who has been promoted for last 58 years. Corporate executives urged women workers to resign, saying that it was the customary of the company when female workers were refusing resignation after marriage. Certain female worker had to go through exemption from important tasks, unjustified transfer of the team and even group bullying. The situation is bitter, just like the taste of Soju, the strong alcohol of 30 percent proof.


 In Daegu, women groups are demanding to Kumbokju in great solidarity to apologize, prevent reoccurrence, eliminate gender discrimination and establish a system that can ensure sustainable work for women. Currently, these groups are participating in boycott campaign. boycott. However, the problem presents not only in Daegu. As Kumbokju is running its business throughout the country, boycotting needs to be conducted beyond Daegu. Today we declare the boycott against Kumbokju. We urge the employers of Kumbokju to build a sustainable environment for female workers as soon as possible.


 We were also surprised that this kind if “custom" had survived without any resistance for 58 years. It is also astonishing that the Ministry of Employment and Labor did not know it at all. Isn’t it that the Ministry of Employment and Labor actually a hidden supporter of the Kumbokju? The Ministry of Employment and Labor always says that they can not take measures until there are specific incidents. They send back women workers who want counselling for maternity leave, insisting that they can come again after the right is actually violated. Cases are dealt with mere formality rather than aiming for the prevention of problems. The case of Kumbokju was revealed by a report of a female worker who was forced resignation.


 But we know. One of the important roles of the Ministry of Employment and Labor is the supervision of work places, not just handling cases. We can also easily assume that the second and third cases similar to Kumbokju’s can be found elsewhere. The Ministry of Employment and Labor must thoroughly supervise whether there are companies that violate the Gender Equality Employment Act around the workplace of Kumbokju and beyond.


 We need to address this issue before any incident occurs. It is too late to wait until victims and their families suffer unnecessary agony. We are talking about the rights explicitly ensured by laws. Is it too much to expect to live in a country where basic rights are ensured?


 We demand the following:

- Build a system that allows women workers sustainable work as soon as possible!

- The Ministry of Employment and Labor must carry out a nationwide special investigation on violations of the Gender Equality Employment Act starting from Seongseo Industrial Complex!


 We also declare boycott of all products of the Kumbokju until the case is resolved.


March 29, 2016

Woman Labor Law Support Center, Women's Committee of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, National Women's Labor Union, Federation of Korean Trade Unions, Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, Korean Women Workers Union, Korean Women's Association United, Women Link

Posted by KWWA

 Today, the ministries concerned jointly announced plans to strengthen the linkage between the employment of youth and women. The government still has not attained a fundamental view on the issue of female work. The key to the solution of the problem is the recognition that female work is low-wage and ancillary; also the fact that even workers with professional position are pushed out in their forties.


 Women are discouraged to work because of childcare and career breaks easily occur for them. Because female workers are concentrated in low-wage and ancillary jobs. As of August 2015, the average wage for male irregular worker is 53.7% (1,790,000 won) of what male regular workers receive (3,340,000 won). Female regular workers are paid 68.7% (2,229,000 won) while female irregular workers only receive 36.3% (1,219,000 won). 55.4% of irregular workers who are receiving an average of 1.21 million won a month are all female. Measures for improving employment for women must be taken with a focus on closing the gender wage gap, which is ranking as the worst among OECD countries, and solving the problem of irregular workers.


 In addition, the government-announced work-family balance policies are still focused on women, even though women are not only responsible for the current problem. Reducing working hours for men and women is the key to the reconciliation of work and family. Gender equality culture should be established both in work places and at home. However, the government is still setting the policy on the premise that women will work for the remaining time after taking the responsibility of childcare alone.


 Why is the government always working on minor issues, avoiding looking into the core of the matter? We would like to conclude this comment with some questions that came after the government’s plan.


1. Promote use of maternity leave and prevent career discontinuation of old age or high-risk mothers by acknowledging pregnancy as a cause of maternity leave.

-> Civil servants and teachers can use pregnancy leave. Why should workers in the private sector use childcare leave for pregnancy?


2. Promote use of maternity leave and parental leave and prevent unfair dismissal by linking and monitoring the data of health insurance and employment insurance

-> Voices of the field are not reflected as the biggest obstacle in taking the maternity leave is lack of the employer's approval.

-> It is like a doctor coming after the death. How could we secure the effectiveness of preventive measures?


3. Where can we see a way for a irregular woman worker to use pregnancy leave and maternity leave?


4. Expand introduction of a system of flexitime for certain period starting from the government and public institutions.

-> Isn’t it more urgent to provide options for setting a certain period for current flexitime workers?

-> Why only women are required to find a flexitime job?


5. Enhance the effectiveness of active measures for improvement of employment. Consider the indicators for work-family balance for evaluation including existence of day care centers, use of flexitime system, use of paternity leave. Announce the bad practices when the employers fail to meet the requirements.

-> This only applies to workplace with more than 500 employees. Expanding the range of application, specifying the type of employment, specifying the position of the management, introducing penalties and incentives are required for effective operation of the policy.


Co-representative of Korean Women Workers Association,

Yun-ok Lim, Jin-kyung Bae

Posted by KWWA

 The reality of women workers living in Korea is as follows.


 About 8.5 million female workers, about 4.7 million, taking up 55.4% of the total, are irregular workers. Once the United Nations Commission on Women advised the Korean government to reduce the number of women irregular workers. The wage gap between men and women is the highest in the OECD countries, and the wage of women irregular workers is only 36.3% of the one of men.


 Under such circumstances, the government is pursuing labor reform that enables employers to dismiss workers by the effectiveness of performance. With practices and cultures of current labor market, women workers are likely to be the first to be considered as low performers. Also only 1% of female irregular workers are organized for collective actions. Therefore, non-regular female workers who do not have collective agreements are subject to the rules of employment. We remember the fact that women workers were the first to be laid off during the last IMF financial crisis.


 The problems of female workers whose career is interrupted because of the difficulty of balancing work and family life. Still in these days, female workers are being laid off for pregnancy, childbirth and childcare, and discriminatory culture and practices continues in terms of sexual harassment as well as employment and wages.


 The minimum wage is 6,030 won per hour in 2016, and the monthly salary is 1,260,000 won per month. The minimum wage is the actual wage for the majority of 4.7 million non-regular women workers. The number of indirectly employed workers, such as in cleaning services, where many middle-aged female workers are working, is increasing amounting to be more than 2 million.


 The realities of the public sector, which is supposed to have a modeling role, are not different. There are 470,000 irregular workers in the public sector, and 130,000 underemployed workers are paid less than the minimum wage. Among them, 370,000 irregular workers work in schools. Excluding irregular teachers, dispatched workers, and fixed-term teachers, about 150,000 are left and 93.4% of them are women. The union members in schools, who make up the majority of women's labor unions in the nation, plan to continue efforts to resolve discrimination by improving wages and collective agreements starting with the general strike of Jeonbuk branch on the 8th of April.


 Women’s child care and care work for the elderly are considered unpaid care work or regarded insignificant. Home care workers, estimated to be 300,000, are not even recognized as workers, and are working in harsh working conditions, being exposed to job insecurity, wage depreciation, unfair treatment, long or too short work hours.


 In short, the problem is that no environment is secured where women workers can work safely and comfortably. The demands and wishes of our women workers can be put into a sentence; “Ensure the right of women workers to work safely!”


 On April 13, we will vote to elect lawmakers. We will carefully select candidates who want to improve the reality of women workers by thoroughly examining whether they have wills and alternatives to solve the problems of women workers, and whether there are commitments and policies for the problems of irregular workers. We will also continue to monitor.


 The National Women’s Labor Union and the Korean Women Workers Association will carry out the campaign ‘The Right of Women Workers to Work Safely’ throughout the whole country in order to change this reality little by little.


 From today, women workers in the nation are united to demand the followings for the year 2016.


 Six Wishes of Female Workers in 2016

 First, immediately stop labor reform that will further fuel the job insecurity of 8 million women!

 First, strengthen the system for pregnancy, childbirth and childcare to harmonize work and family life, and take aggressive measures to eliminate the culture and practices of sexual discrimination at work including sexual harassment!

 First, female workers are poor even though they work hard! Raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won to ensure a basic living!

 First, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Education must take the lead in resolving the discrimination against women and irregular workers by actively addressing the demands of the irregular workers in the schools, 93.4% of which are female workers.

 First, recognize domestic workers as legal workers! Establish special laws and create more jobs for protection of female workers!

 First, protect care services for public interests and improve labor rights and treatment of care workers!


March 14, 2016

National Women's Labor Union, Korean Women Workers Association


Posted by KWWA

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