On October 17, 'Reply, 2012: to the reasons for unfairness and unequality'
holding a women workers' political talk concert
<in Nicholao Hall of Catholic Youth Center October 17, 2012>


Why are our society unfair and unequal? Last Wednesday, October 17, 2012, women gathered together at Catholic Youth Center to find answers to the questions.


At 7:10, the curtain of darkness in the concert hall was drawn. Soon, the lights of the stage became on, and then, women workers started to walk on the stage. The talk concert began to talk about the next president that women workers hope and wish to become: 'I'd like to put the name of a Korean president on my list of the persons that I respect. For this, the president should respect Korean people first.' 'The honest president going along with common people,' 'The president who can change the job structure polarized between decent jobs and poor jobs,' 'Happy society in which MOMs can enjoy!'


In order to celebrate the concert, first of all, performances were put on by ‘Pado,' a dancing team of the Sogang University, Seoul Branch, KWTU and 'Ullalla Sisters,' a dancing team composed of care workers of Kuro Self-sufficiency Promotion Center. The two dancing teams danced so passionately that the concert hall was filled with shouts and excitement.


Choi Kwanggi, a specialized MC announced the full-scale launch of the women workers' political talk concert, saying "Women are the half of the world. I am emceeing this talk concert with a will for women to change our politics by themselves and take political action. Korea in 2012 must listen to women's voices. I'd like to start 'Reply, 2012' by welcoming the women workers who became in the center of the politics.'


Next, delegates from the three presidential camps, Yoo Seunghee, National Assembly member (president, Women's Committee of the camp of presidential candidate, Moon Jae In), Park Won-suk, National Assembly member (spokesperson, Preparation Committee of Progressive Justice Party), Shin Kyeong-A, professor of Hallim University (Women's policy team member of the camp of presidential candidate, Ahn Cheolsoo) were on the stage and started talks. During the talk, Kim Eunsook (a golf caddie and 88 branch president of KWTU) and Jung Eunhee (a nurse and mom) also made their speeches regarding their workplaces.


[Theme 1: Let's decrease the Korea's worst wage gap between men and women to the OECD level]


Choi Kwanggi: While the average of gender wage gaps in OECD countries is 15.8%, Korea's wage gap between men and women is 38.9%, which is 2.5 times worse compared to the OECD average. What alternatives do you have to decrease the gender wage gap?


Yoo Seunghee: Why there is the big wage gap by gender in Korea is career break and the minimum wage. Our camp agreed that the minimum wage should be realized in practice and the Minimum Wage Committee should be legalized. In addition, we also discussed that 350,000 jobs in the public sector should be created.


Shin Kyeong-A: The equality by gender should be at the center of all kinds of equality. In this light, gender wage gap is an important issue. In addition, women workers working at the small and medium size companies employing less than 30, accounted for nearly 65%. It means two thirds of Korean women workers cannot be covered by large company centered policies. The improvement of the working conditions for women workers working at small and medium size companies will have a great impact on the whole picture of gender wage gap. The minimum wage should also be increased to 50 % of the average wages.


Park Won-suk: Women workers have triple discrimination by gender, educational level and employment type. In particular, women irregular workers are the class at the bottom in Korea. In removing the complicated wag gap, the first principle is 'Equal pay for equal work.' In addition, the second principle is 'the minimum wage.' The increase to 50% of the average wages should be legalized. So, if the average wage is increased, the minimum wage should be increased, as well. The third principle is the social representation of women. The rate of women directors are needed to increase in the private sector as well as in the public sector.


[Theme 2: Decrease women irregular workers to half]


Choi Kwanggi: Many women workers including irregular workers have the worst working conditions. Women workers account for 60% of all the irregular workers, which shows women irregular workers are higher than male workers. We believe there should be urgent countermeasures.


Shin Kyeong-A: There is an answer to irregular workers' issue, but only the government and the society didn't accept it. Many of women workers' issues can be solved if 'equal pay for equal work' and 'the limited reasons of the use' are applied well in practice. Even though there is the principle of 'equal pay for equal work' there but it hasn't been practical so far. It is of great importance that the government should express its strong will to fulfill it and feasible systems related to the principle should be carried out in practice.


Park Won-suk: Compared to men regular workers, the wage of women irregular women by gender and employment type is just 38~39. Without any proactive improvement in employment types and employment structures, any gender related policies can be feasible. As countermeasures to irregular workers' issues, 'limited reasons of use' and 'dispatched labor' should be banned. In order to obtain the quality of employment, the government should work hard to change irregular workers to regular workers in the public sector, first. This can lead to the change in the private sector.


Yoo Seunghee: Our party has proposed and propelled the Fixed-term and Part-time Worker Protection Act, Dispatched Worker Protection and Indirect Employment Limit Act. Women have many discriminations by wage and gender in their lifetimes. Poverty rate of old people is three times higher compared to that of OECD countries. Poverty rate of the women elderly is higher amongst the elderly. We should also look at this issue carefully.


Choi Kwanggi: Let's listen to the story in the workplace. Kim Eunsook is here.


Kim Eunsook: Since 1999 when a trade union was set up in my company, I have worked as a unionist. When the trade union was established, the company usually told us that we are not workers but self-employed. At that time, we were able to establish the trade union based on the precedent of the Supreme Court, saying that we are workers on the ground of but the Trade Union Act not the Labor Standard Act. 88CC is a public corporate run by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affair. CEOs usually change whenever regimes change. Since the MB regime was set up, out of sudden, we have been suppressed strongly: our trade union has become viewed as illegal and we haven't as workers. In 2008, the total number of about 70 unionists were fired, and presently only about 60 persons have struggled very hard for 5 years.


Park Won-suk: The system of specially employed workers have been spreaded fast, centered by the service industry. The crucial thing is that they are actually workers who receive job inspections and job instructions from the company, but that they are viewed as self-employed. Shim Sang-jung, our presidential candidate proposed a law for ensuring specially-employed workers to have the three labor rights, including the fact that they are also workers in the Labor Relation Regulation Act. Additionally, regardless of any occupational types, the law should be reformed in order that people could be covered by industrial insurance. I believe social awareness is also important. Compared to large-size companies, our society isn't concerned for the weaker. In the process of solving irregular workers' issues in our society, not only legal reforms but also social awareness should be upgraded.


Shin Kyeong-A: Special employment is a crucial issue but is not socially raised as a hot issue. Specially employed workers should be covered by the industrial insurance. In addition, we should organize a consultation body rather than the existing Tripartite Commission, for fundamentally changing irregular workers related laws and for ensuring specially employed workers to join the structure to raise their issues.


Yoo Seunghee: What is important is that specially employed workers are not viewed as workers and that their legal status is not definite. Of great importance is giving them their clear legal statuses.


[Theme 3: Increase women's employment rate to the average OECD level]


Choi Kwanggi: What lowers women's employment rate is that women stop working due to their childbirth and childcare activities. This generates the term, career break. Women often get fired because they are pregnant or women call for maternity leave. One of our guest had such an experience.


Jung Eunhee: I had been a nurse working for the operation room at a hospital. Currently, I am on parental leave. From the stage of pregnancy I had difficulty. I told my team master that I would be gonna prepare for pregnancy. When I told him that I would not join operations using radiation, he looked askance at me, saying that I should fix my pregnancy term. I asked to be moved to another department after being pregnant, but it was not that smooth. When I told the hospital that I would continue receiving maternity leave and parental leave, the hospital kept avoiding me, saying that there was no precedent. At last, on the last day when I was on maternity leave, I had to write a confirmation that I would retire at my will after this unpaid parental leave.


Shin Kyeong-A: There are maternity protection systems in Korea, but what is important is how to realize them. It is important to improve the systems, but it is needed to make good use of the systems for 5 years in the future. Of importance is caring. We should provide free childcare. We are going to construct care infrastructure for taking care of infants up to early juveniles, not just until 5 year-old kids. If so, moms can work comfortably and relaxedly.


Park Won-suk: What is problematic is that the systems don't work well. Eventually it is a political matter. The biggest problem in women's economic participation rate is career break. 'Discrimination Prevention Act' should be regulated to ban retirement due to pregnancy, child-delivery and childcare and employment discrimination. Public childcaring should be expanded. In addition, care workers in the informal sector cannot be covered by the Labor Standard Act. Korea has not ratified the ILO Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. At once these issues should be tackled.


Yoo Seunghee: If the presidential candidates from opposition parties are unified, I think political aims are similar. We believe the care service network for looking after children up to middle school students, should be developed and carried out well in practice. Of great importance is to select a president with such a will.


Choi Kwanggi: Even though low birth rate is very serious in our society, who will deliver more babies because none takes care of even one baby? I hope our society can be a happy society in which the baby of the previous guest can be looked after until they are 10 years old.


Questioner: I work at a large-size company that people often classify. However women workers in large companies are also in hard situation. Since 1995, industrial restructuring has been chasing us. Under the situation, women always became targets for dismissals. Therefore, women from the bottom to the top have problems. We should vote for the presidential candidate and National Assembly members who are able to fulfill such good policies that women can be treated well and look after children in comfortable conditions. I hope today's talks were not just pun. I hope you are all the hopes for women workers in difficulties.


Choi Kwanggi: I'd like to announce this political talk concert is over. After letting the three camps know what the questioner and our guests said, I feel our hope seems realized more. I hope we can do our best to realize our hopes through changes and reforms in 2012. I hope women workers can be hopes. Today, we asked a question why our society is unfair and unequal to ourselves. I believe all of us know the answer. Your choice in 2012 can make our society fair and equal. You are the protagonist of the year of 2012.

Posted by KWWA