Labor Minister Lee Sang-soo hinted yesterday that the government could use the police to block "illegal" labor strikes against a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement scheduled for next week.
"Although (the government) tended to refrain from mobilizing law enforcement authorities in the past, this time, we will strictly deal with the strike from the beginning stage," Lee said at a press conference.
The ministers of labor, justice and commerce issued a joint statement urging the metal workers` union to scrap its plan to stage a strike in protest of the free trade agreement with the United States.
Lee also said the walkout plans of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and its affiliate, Korean Metal Workers` Union, are clearly illegal, politically motivated and irrelevant to improving working conditions.
He further pointed out that the walkout plans have procedural errors as the unions failed to put it to the vote.
"The planned general strike is putting a damper on the recovering national economy and the advancing labor-management relationship," Lee said.
Stressing that the auto industry is expected to become the biggest benefactor from the trade pact with the United States, the labor minister called on unionists not to join "the unjustifiable strike." The statement warned that the government will deal sternly with the strike according to the laws and principles, without tolerating any illegal activities.
The KMWU, in response, vowed to go ahead with its plan for the strike next week in a statement.
The KCTU plans to launch an anti-FTA strike on June 29, while the KMWU plans a week-long partial strike starting this coming Monday. The unions argue that the trade deal will weaken the Korean auto industry and have negative impacts on workers` job security.
By Ahn Hyo-lim (firstname.lastname@example.org)