Sent: Saturday, June 4, 2011 7:58:46 PM
Subject: Requesting Solidarity for Vietnamese workers in SK unjustly arrested for work action
Greeting friends and allies,
I am writing to ask for your support for 10 Vietnamese workers unjustly arrested in South Korea simply for demanding better conditions. This is a clear case of the criminalization of documented migrant workers in South Korea and of labor repression. Background information on the case follows.
PSSP is participating in an emergency committee formed to support these workers and fight for their release. The committee includes several labor and social justice movement organizations in South Korea.
A petition to be submitted to the presiding judge in the case is attached. To show your support, please sign it and by fax or email to 82-32-576-8113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also collecting petitions in South Korea. All petitions will be submitted to the judge together on June 8 (Korean time.)
Recently 10 Vietnamese migrant workers working in South Korea were arrested, detained and brought to the trial.
The Prosecutor’s Office has charged them with several crimes including obstruction of business, group violence, mob assault and assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution is claiming the Vietnamese migrant workers carried out an illegal strike. In its letter of indictment the prosecution claims that the workers who were arrested had led the strike and used threats and force to make other workers participate.
All those arrested are documented migrant workers who entered South Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS). If they are convicted, they are highly likely to face deportation under the Immigration Control Act.
The 10 individuals had been among 200 Vietnamese workers employed to construct the substructure of a container wharf at the Incheon New Port last year.
KRW 4,110/hour wage (minimum wage).
12-hour shifts from 7:00 to 19:00 (Lunch break: 12:00-13:00). The company almost always ran two shifts, one from 7:00 to 19:00 and one from 19:00 to 7:00.
Work on Saturday and Sunday even though the employment contract stipulated a Monday to Friday work week.
Only 1 meal a day (lunch) provided free of charge. The cost of breakfast and lunch (KRW 240,000 a month) was deducted from wages. For this reason, the major demand during the strike was the provision of three meals a day. The company offered breakfast and dinner for free from April to May, 2010. But it notified the workers it would offer only lunch for free beginning in July. Many workers who had worked since April staged a walkout and refused to work.
<1st Strike: July 22 to 25, 2010>
Beginning at 7 o’clock in the morning on the 22th of July, 2010, roughly two hundred Vietnamese workers went on a walkout. The walkout continued until 7 o’clock in the evening on the 25th of July, 2010.
The workers made the following demands:
That they be provided three meals a day, free of charge.
That the not be forced to work at night against their will.
That they be allowed to have friends visit them in company-provided living quarters.
That they be allowed to have food, drink and alcohol in their living quarters.
*The company argued that the strike caused losses worth KRW 1 billon. It said it was forced to hired local workers and had to paid extra to rent equipment for an extended period of time.
<2nd Strike: January 9 to 10, 2010>
Most of the Vietnamese workers went on a walkout against beginning on January 9,, 2011. In response, the company changed its policy. It reduced recognized work hours from 12 to 11 hours (The workers worked for 12 hours from 7:00 to 19:00pm, with a lunch break from 12:00 to 1:00pm). The company had previously recognized 12 working hours including 4 hours of overtime work.
*The company argued the second strike caused losses worth KRW 109 million.
<Arrest and Trial>
The 10 Vietnamese migrants continued to be employed and worked after the strike.
Some of those who were arrested had only begun to work in July 2010. As such, they were not in the condition to lead the first strike.
The 10 workers were arrested in March and April 2011, and were charged with interfering with the business, group violence, and mob assault with a deadly weapon.
At a hearing on May 26, the prosecution asked that the workers be given prison sentences of 3 years to 2 of the workers, 1 year and 6 months to 1 worker, 1 year to 6 workers and 1 year suspended for 2 years to 1 worker.
The next hearing in the case will be on June 9.