KHMU Info No. 4(June 28, 2018)
1,200 day- long Fight for Truth and Justice
Resistance against Profit-seeking Management and Anti-labor union Actions that Violate Human Rights
“Incheon Citizens’ Coalition for Normalization of the International St. Mary’s Hospital and the Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital (hereinafter Citizens’ Coalition)” held the press conference at the Incheon Prosecution Service, to accuse Park Moon-seo, the former vice president of the two catholic hospitals.
It is very rare to see a citizens’ group to organize a press conference before a prosecutors’ office. Plus, it is all the more unusual for citizens to lodge an official complaint against the priest that has already been fired. What on the earth happened?
1. Oppression against Labor Union
<The Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital> was founded in 1995 under the name of Mary Mercy Hospital. Today, the polyclinic is equipped with 1,000 beds and has around 1,800 workers.
The hospital trade union was organized in 1987 and in 2004, 232 out of 430 workers joined in the union. In 2005, when the hospital management power was transferred to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Incheon from the Sisters, unacceptable practices began.
The management set a target about the number of patients and has had employees circulate PR leaflets on the street to attract more patients. They even conducted so-called 2,000 day and 3,000day campaigns to meet the set number of patients per day.
They even gave pressure to MDs to make more profits, which led some of those doctors to resign. No close for booking to see doctor has forced doctors and staff to work till 10:00 pm. And nurses had to work without using the lunch break. This excessive workload was well evidenced by the episode that even a nurse who had been working for three months asked the direction for the hospital canteen and that a meal cost was recorded at 0 in some pay slips.
They also obstructed union activities and forced union members to withdraw from the union, concerned about any possible obstacles against “profit first policy.” As a result, the number of union members decreased by 120 to 112 from 232.
In 2007, they also punished 26 union members and 10 union leaders for an event that took place two years before, while lodging a 1.1 billion and 80 million won compensation claim against 20 unionists including leaders for business obstruction and applying for provisional seizure. The unionists were acquitted of most of the legal claims by the management at the court but during one year or two of the trials, unionists had to suffer serious distresses.
In 2008, even a concealed small camera was found at the hallway of the union office. And the hospital managers blocked the union from distributing its leaflets.
In 2012, on the occasion of May Day, union members circulated around 800 Chocopie biscuits and yogurt with phrases like “It is the International Workers’ Day today. Have a happy day” being put on it. But, then, the managers ordered employees to return the small refreshments to the union office, which was such a bizarre scene.
For four years in a row, they froze wage and notified unilateral termination of collective agreement and changed the agreement content twice in an unfavorable way to workers.
In addition, Hong Myeong-ok, the head of the hospital union was bullied by around 40 mid-level managers over 20 times for three years starting from 2012.
2. Hunt out Whistleblowers
On March 20, 2015, news was released that a severed employee of the Incheon International St. Mary’s hospital is under the police investigation, which accuses of the hospital’s actions having employees’ friends and relatives registered as patients in order to gain more national health insurance paybills. For this, a civic group held a press conference to denounce the hospital for its false claim. (The hospital was acquitted at the prosecutors’ office unlike the result of the police investigation. Civic groups suspected that some influencers pressured prosecutors and they remonstrated prosecutors’ conclusion.)
In the meantime, the hospital tried to find out who reported it to the media and questioned Hong Myeong-ock the union head if she was the informant. Even worse, a group of mid-level managers came to her workplace and called for an elucidation, verbally abusing her.
After being bullied by the managers, Ms. Hong the union head was diagnosed with adjustment disorder and had to take the antianxiety drug. On April 15, she fell down on the way to work and was rushed to the emergency room. She eventually wound up being hospitalized with doctors’ recommendation on three-month medical care and treatment. Even under the circumstance, instead of a word of apology, the hospital laid her off with the reason that she was absent at work without notice.
For this, the KHMU immediately began to protest and seek for a legal ground favorable of Ms. Hong. And on July 15, 2015, the nationwide healthcare union took the initiative to launch a local citizens-centered “Incheon Citizens’ Coalition for Normalization of the International St. Mary’s Hospital and the Catholic University Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital” and beefed up its struggle for justice.
The fight includes: a series of protests and media sessions before the hospital and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Incheon, discussion sessions at the National Assembly, campaigns and picketing activities to raise public awareness about this issue, walkathon with citizens, and other campaign activities. The former head of the hospital union Hong went on a hunger strike even twice. Members of civic groups held a relay hunger strike for around five months in 2015, following Ms. Hong’s example.
Nonetheless, the Incheon Diocese, which is in actual charge of managing the hospital, has never met the demand for interview, dismissing it as internal issues of the hospital.
Instead of coming to dialogue, the hospital management brought around 12 cases of accusations and charges against union leaders and representatives of civic groups in 2016. Such claims include 510 million won charges for compensation. They insisted that the union leaders and civic activists had obstructed their business.
The ex-union head Hong who was fired by the hospital and the civic activists did not stop demonstrations and continued tough struggles. The hospital union branch elected Lee Eun-ju as a new head who can replace Hong.
3. Revealed Truth and Sad Victim
In December, 2017, independent media <Newstapa>’s saturation coverage revealed a shocking reality about the hospital. At the coverage, the priest Park Moon-seo (then-vice president of the hospital) in charge of all administrative matters in practice was found a massive corrupter, making a great deal of irregularities.
Priest Park was notorious for his profit first policies and repression against trade union. It was disclosed that he opened a separate company, intervened the interests of hospital businesses, and even manipulated stock prices.
The Incheon Diocese, which had neglected the issues raised by civic groups and the union, could not continue to turn the closed eye to the situation, so it fired the Priest Park and changed the hospital management.
Those who were involved in the long time struggles were glad to see a silver lining. But, before being fully excited about the possible solutions of the issue, they ended up falling into grief since the union head Lee passed away on December 26. Around those days, the news that the diocese would fire priest Park was heard.
She died of pulmonary thrombosis, which was caused by her ankle hurt during the picketing protest on the street a few days before.
Many mourned and the funeral was filled with many of her colleagues. The KHMU began to strengthen its organizing activities with union members left, as a result of which more joined in the union. Hospital managers were afraid of this move of the union so they formed a yellow union, separate from the original one, which is the branch of the KHMU.
In January 2018, a total of 290 people who had to endure financial loss due to the priest Park’s manipulation of stock prices accused the priest. And in February 2018, he was fired and defrocked, which illustrated that the Incheon Diocese could not help acknowledging the corrupted priest’s unethical wrongdoings.
4. Issues still remain unresolved
In May 2018, the Ministry of Employment and Labor conducted labor supervision and ordered the hospital to pay unpaid overtime pay and other benefits which total at 1.6 billion won.
As the management was changed, the KHMU had a chance to meet with the new management for the first time in February 2018. The new management was in a more progressive position, promising that they would accept the legal activities of the union.
Civic groups and the KHMU urge the Incheon Diocese: to make a responsible apology and prepare preventive measures, to dismiss those corrupted managers from office, to change those in HR and industrial relations who were involved in unjust labor practices to new personnel, to accept the activities of the democratic labor union at the full scope, and to reinstate fired workers.
However, the diocese and the hospital have yet to offer any specific solutions and simply prolong the discussions. The union members at the Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital have been working on some awareness-raising activities before the hospital canteen every Tuesday while they hold a candlelight protest once a month, together with the Citizen’s Coalition.
On July 3, civic groups will have yet another press conference before the Incheon Prosecution Service, in order them to re-investigate the problems of the International St. Mary’s Hospital. At the same time, one-man protest will begin again before the Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital and Apostolic Nunciature in Korea. On July 5, the ex-head of the union Hong’s second trial on nullification of dismissal will take place.
Remember the struggle towards truth for 1,200 days in a row!
We at the KHMU will continue to fight until truth wins.
See the articles at English page; http://bogun.nodong.org/english/