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KTX Female Workers “10 Years… The 3,848th Day On-Strike”10 Years Struggle to be Reinstated and Joined the Urban Railway Public Corporation

-KTX Female Workers "On-Strike for 10 Years" to be Reinstated and Joined the Urban Railway Public Corporation

By Kang Hoseok

There are struggles no media ever deal with yet are the most fierce and bitter. Min[people]Plus reports, for one month as a planned news series, such nationwide long-lasting struggles as those of the Dongyang Cements Division, the Social Security Information Center Division, the HI-DIS Division, the Hi-Tech RCD Korea Division, the GM Korea Gunsan Temporary Position Division, and the KTX Railway Crew Member Division. Min[people]Plus hopes that some problems are settled before it finishes its one-month series, so it does not have to cover at least one of these struggles. [editor’s note]

“The KTX [the fastest urban express railway in South Korea] hired me as crew member in 2004. I joined it dreaming of being ‘a stewardess on the ground’. At that time they asked me to work as an employee of the ‘Hongik’ Organization [a private company in charge of snacks and meals and such on train] for one year until the KTX is transferred to the Urban Railway Public Corporation. I trusted them. But in 2005, instead of sending me to the Urban Railway Public Corporation, they established a weird company called ‘the Korail Tourism and Development’ and started to operate illegal (work) dispatch - the Urban Railway Public Corporation had lied to the 350 KTX female crew members about their hire and employment. In 2006, together with the Railway Union, we started to strike demanding ‘the direct employment’, but they fired us 250 female crew members.” Kim Seung-ha (38), chief of the KTX Crew Members Division thus fired 10 years ago, was holding her breath all the way during the interview.

▲ KTX female crew members on strike, tying their bodies with iron chains.

One month after the female crew members had started strike demanding the Urban Railway Public Corporation directly hire the KTX female crew members, the Korail Tourism and Development abruptly released a new employment notice. And it sent text messages (to the 250 female crew members who had been on strike) that their employment contracts were canceled, with an option that it would hire them back if they stopped strike.

They did not stop the strike: head shaving, fast, sit-in on iron tower, iron chaining… trying all extreme methods for women. Yet… the Urban Railway Public Corporation did not keep its promise of direct employment. After one year in 2007, the number of the female crew members still on strike was shrank to 100, and then to 50 after one more year in 2008. Of course all those who had stopped striking did not go back to the Korail. Around 100 out of the 200 chose other jobs for living.

In December 2008, the 34 members, then still on strike, filed a lawsuit to confirm that they (the KTX female crew members) were the employees of the Urban Railway Public Corporation. Properly yet unexpectedly they won at the first trial in 2009, and the second trial in 2011 also took the side of the KTX female crew members. Their application for the wage injunction was also approved, so they were paid during their strike. Thus they thought they were going to win.

In 2012, around 100 laid-off members who had have to stop strike and leave for living also filed a lawsuit. They won at the first trial but did not at the second one. “At that time I thought something was going wrong. In December that year, I cried very hard watching Park Geun-hye winning the presidential election. I started to feel anxious and impatient,” Kim Seung-ha KTX Division chief talking, her face expression got hardened miserably.

On February 26, 2015, a final decision like a bolt from the blue was announced at last. The Supreme Court made a judgment, overturning the verdict of the first and the second trials, that the KTX female crew members were not employees of the Urban Railway Public Corporation. What on earth went wrong? The job description of the crew includes service work and safety work. The first and the second trial judged that the female crew members were also accomplishing safety work and ordered direct employment declaring that their work dispatch was illegal. On the other hand, the Supreme Court judged that the female crew members had nothing to do with safety work.

Four crew members are on board on the KTX trains: one team leader and three female members. Among these four, the team leader is an employee of the Urban Railway Public Corporation since, let’s say, he accomplishes ‘safety work’. What then is the criterion of safety work? The sentencing of the Supreme Court reads, “Door opening and closing, checking on signals and such are safety work. Temperature and lighting in cabin, supporting passengers’ boarding on and off and announcement are service work. The team leader rounds the entire train, but the female crew members round only sections they are in charge of. The female crew members also participate in activities of extinguishing and evacuating when there is fire on train, but cases as such are rare, and the weight of this sort of work is low in their original job performance.” Therefore, the Court says, the female crew members do not accomplish safety work. Yet anyone who ever took the KTX train even just once knows: who is in front of the side drop door taking care of passengers when it is opened and closed, who is rotating on the train, and who is called upon when passengers feel urgent or uncomfortable…

In November last year, they finally concluded that the Urban Railway Public Corporation did not have to directly hire the KTX female crew members because they did not accomplish safety work for passengers.

▲ KTX female crew members on strike in uniforms

One month prior to the 20th general election this year, Choi Yun-hye Urban Railway Public Corporation board chairperson had resigned and then became an Assembly member (the ruling Saenuri party) as proportional representation number 5 at the election. On the following day of the general election, April 14, the certification of contents (ordering that 86 million 400 thousand won [approximately 78,000 US dollars] each was to be returned) was delivered to the 34 female crew members who had filed for the lawsuit.

“For the last ten years, we have had countless vicissitudes. Yet it is more than simply obvious, whose fault it is, from the hiring fraud in 2004 to the Supreme Court’s judgment fraud in 2015. Therefore, we can never stop nor give up. How on earth can we just sit and watch injustice becoming justice and vice turning into virtue?” September 12 was the 3,848th day since they started strike on March 1 in 2006. The 34 laid-off female workers are still on strike, Sundays and Mondays at the Seoul Station and Thursdays at the Busan Station every week, holding pickets, ordering, “The Urban Railway Public Corporation Directly Hire the KTX Female Crew Members!”

▲ Female crew members being hauled by the police during strike.

Kang Hoseok  sonkang114@gmail.com

<저작권자 © 현장언론 민플러스, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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