Case story

  • South Korea

OECD NCP South Korea - Workers Assistance Center et al vs. Chongwon Fashion Inc

South Korea 2007

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Story

OECD Watch reports that the complaint referred to workers’ rights problems that began in 2001 when workers attempted to establish a trade union at the Chongwon Fashion plant in the Philippines. The management threatened to close it down if the union was formed. However, in 2004 the unions won elections at both Chongwon and Phils Jeon (a subsidiary of Il-Kyoung Co.). After that, the companies repeatedly questioned the election results by filing several court petitions, but lost the case in every instance.

In August 2006, the union president at Phils Jeon was dismissed along with 63 other union members. At the same time, workers at the Chongwon plant went on strike because of harassment. Again in September 2006, the workers at Phils Jeon went on strike despite warnings from the management. The strike was violently dispersed by police and security guards who attacked and beat the mainly female workers, 25 of whom were injured. Strikes at Chongwon continued even after 71 of the striking workers were dismissed and some workers received death threats in June 2007.

In February 2007, the Philippine Department of Labour and Employment declared that the unions no longer represented the workers. The union believes that the companies offered bribes and therefore brought charges against the mediator of the National Relations Commission for taking bribes.

The management allegedly threatened union leaders on various occasions in an attempt to force them to resign. Furthermore, on 6 August 2007, two women workers sleeping in front of the Phils Jeon factory were attacked by masked men, abducted and then thrown out at a highway close to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority

Outcome

After assessing the complaint, the Korean NCP notified the complainants that:

  1. There was no way to deal with the Chongwon case because the company did not exist any more; and,

  2. It had undertaken an initial assessment of the Phils Jeon/Il-Kyoung case and accepted it as a specific instance.

In November 2007, the NGOs conducted additional field research at the Phils Jeon factory and submitted this to the NCP in a meeting between the unions, NGOs and the NCP. Il-Kyoung agreed to enter into a dialogue with the Phils Jeon union, and the Complainants pushed to have this be facilitated by the NCP.

On 4 April 2008 an informal meeting took place between the trade union and Phils Jeon management. The NCP played no role in the meeting. Phils Jeon management and Il-Kyoung stated that they would not enter into a dialogue with the workers because they no longer worked for the company. The Complainants insist that since their dismissal was in dispute, the workers maintain their union membership and urge the Korean NCP to hold a meeting with all stakeholders.

The NCP has since organised a meeting between stakeholders, including Il-Kyoung Co., the parent company of Phils Jeon, and the Korean House for International Solidarity in an effort to settle the case. In April 2009, the Complainants requested a progress report on the Il-Kyoung Co. case from the NCP. The NCP responded that it would take no further action on the case until parallel legal proceedings (a recently-initiated case between Phils Jeon and its employees) in the Philippines were concluded. As yet, no progress on the case has been made by the Korean NCP.

References

OECD Watch case story page http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_127

 

Contributor(s): This article was modified by Kyle (3), Nicolaclayre (3), and Ejfturnbull (1).