‘tHis deal is wrong for workers in both countries’, the Canadian Labour Congress and Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, said calling on their governments to immediately halt the talks, for a free trade deal.
‘By following the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model, the governments of Canada and South Korea plan to entrench corporate rights at the expense of workers’ rights and their wages,’ the joint unions said.
Representing over four million workers in both countries, the joint unions said last week the trade talks put ‘corporate profits ahead of the needs and interests of working people in both Canada and Korea.
The joint statement continued: ‘The trade deal will damage Canada’s manufacturing sector, already in crisis from shifting global production and a soaring dollar.
‘Canada has lost more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs since 2002 which have not been off-set by comparable new jobs, paying decent wages and benefits.
‘The Korean manufacturing sector is also adversely affected. The trend towards irregular and precarious employment (already at 54 per cent) will intensify.
‘In light of the serious manufacturing crisis, the devastating deterioration of Canada’s automotive trade balance, as well as the serious risks facing the Korean agricultural sector posed by this agreement, we call on our respective governments to halt trade negotiations.’
‘This deal will weaken public services and social safety nets to the point where they are ineffective in protecting the people of Korea and Canada from the painful side effects of an unrestricted free market.
‘Not learning the lessons of NAFTA, there are plans to keep the infamous “Chapter 11” provisions, with corporations free to sue governments who act in the public good, and both governments constrained from implementing active social, environmental and industrial policies.
‘The core of these negotiations are based on a devastating model of development that can only lead to competition at the expense of workers’ rights, labour standards, and the environment.
‘These trade deals, by granting infinite rights and freedoms to business – transnational corporations in particular – and by facilitating the mobility of speculative financial capital, in addition to weakening workers’ rights (as evidenced by the violent attacks against workers exercising their right to organise), have led to the erosion of basic human rights’, the Canadian and Korean unions said.
Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Lee Suk-Haeng, President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions said: ‘We call for a moratorium on the current trade deal talks and demand that discussions begin on a fair trade arrangement based on the rights of workers in both countries to sound social and economic development with decent jobs based on the fundamental rights enshrined in ILO core Conventions.
l Meanwhile, there has been a crack-down on trade unionists in South Korea.
Early in the morning of December 13, President Kajiman, Vice President Raju and General Secretary Masum of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union (a KCTU affiliate) were secreted out of Cheongju Detention Centre, where they had been confined since they were arrested in a targeted crack-down on November 27.
‘It has been confirmed that they were transported to Incheon International Airport and deported to their native countries (Nepal and Bangladesh) during the morning hours.
This act by the Ministry of Justice is yet a further escalation of its repression against Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU) and the organising of migrant workers in South Korea.
The sequence of events were as follows: On November 27, the three MTU leaders were arrested in a clearly targeted crack-down in an attempt to stop MTU’s union activities.
‘Since then MTU has formed an Emergency Committee and has been carrying out an intense campaign for their release, including a sit-in protest begun on December 5.
‘MTU and the allies in our Emergency Committee first became aware of the Ministry of Justice’s move to deport the three MTU leaders around noon on December 11, when we received a call from the Nepalese Embassy informing us they had sent travel documents to Cheongju Detention Centre for President Kajiman and Vice President Raju.
‘Later that night, we heard that our application for a stay of deportation was turned down by the Ministry of Justice.
‘We therefore moved quickly and dispatched a team of over 20 allies to Cheongju to attempt to block any vehicles that could be carrying the three leaders out of the detention centre.
‘We were able to block a bus, through the windows of which we could see General Secretary Masum, for several hours early this morning.
‘A brief press conference was held at 7.30am under the belief that we had temporarily succeeded in blocking the deportation.
‘However, later we heard reports from the Immigration Authorities and Ministry of Justice that at least two, if not all the leaders had been deported.
‘Then, at roughly 8.30am, we received a call from a Nepali person whom had seen President Kajiman and Vice President Raju board a plane at Incheon International Airport and called us on their behalf.
‘At roughly 10.45am, we also received a call from General Secretary Masum, confirming he had been deported as well. It has become clear that all three men were eventually taken out of Cheongju Detention Centre in civilian cars through routes of which we were not aware earlier.
‘The early morning deportation of the MTU leaders confirms even more sharply that the Ministry of Justice is acting to repress the activities of MTU and the independent organising of migrant workers in South Korea.
‘This is obvious from the Ministry of Justice’s own statement that they had noted not only the union organising of MTU but also its participation in other progressive struggles.
‘What is more, the Ministry of Justice has broken its promise not to carry out the deportations until the National Human Rights Commission has completed its investigation of the case and made a recommendation.
‘The Ministry of Justice is acting with completely no respect for the labour rights and human rights of migrant workers in South Korea. Its actions represent an attack on not only migrant workers, but on organised labour and all progressive forces in South Korea.’
‘The joint union statement continued: We are also gravely concerned that the President, Vice President and General Secretary will meet more repression when they return to their home countries. Our previous president, President Anwar, was detained and investigated by the Bangladeshi authorities for ‘anti-Korean’ and ‘anti-government’ activities upon returning home.
‘We have strong reason to believe that this was in large part due to pressure put on the Bangladeshi authorities by the South Korean government. Given the high likelihood of a similar problem now, we are calling on progressive force in Nepal and Bangladesh to do everything they can to block acts of repression by their local authorities.
‘We are determined not to let the government’s blatant acts of repression intimidate us. Rather, our struggle will only grow stronger, sending a clear message that the organising of migrant workers to win the rights they deserve will not be crushed.
‘We will continue and expand the sit-in struggle and carry out protests from now to the end of the year.’