According to the Yeonsu District Office in Incheon, five natives of English-speaking countries working at a language academy as English teachers received permission for union establishment on Nov. 24.
“The teachers met the requirements for union foundation as they all held work visas and signed up for national health insurance,” said an official of the district office.
It was the second time that foreign nationals alone have set up a labor union in Korea.
Back in 2005, a group of English teachers working at an institute in southern Seoul established the nation’s first one of its kind.
In the same year, 91 immigrant workers attempted to form a trade union, but the ministry did not approve it as most of them were staying here illegally.
Considering the growing number of English-native teachers and that most of them are contract workers, observers say that more unions will be organized by them.
The second teacher’s union was approved by the Korean authorities on November 24th. This union is the result of months of collaborative action by five Native English Teachers and Jung Bongsoo, an attorney at the Kangnam Labor Law Firm.We saw the formation of our labor union as the best way to achieve positive, stable and normal working conditions and to improve employee/employer relations.
ATEK, which consists of over 1000 members, is a primarily web based support network for foreign teachers in Korea. One of ATEK ‘s key roles is to collect and distribute information to foreign teachers, primarily information to which they might not otherwise have access. In this instance, ATEK was able to suggest a labor law firm to one of our members which resulted in the firm creating a Legal Assurance package for the member and his co-workers.
- Know what you’re getting yourself into. Unions have to be willing to take collective action (e.g. demand, strike) to ensure their threats aren’t empty.
- Unions are, by definition, a group-oriented thing. The teacher that’s leaving in two months won’t be around to be the group’s president, and the teachers just here for a one-year tour may not provide enough stability to keep the group going. You’ll need to be unanimous (or at least 90% together) to truly have collective power.
- A legal victory is not necessarily an actual victory. By the time you’ve ‘won’ a judgment against a school, it may be more of a Pyrrhic victory. Being able to collect on it (or garnish some of the school’s property) is potentially another uphill battle.
Whatever the case may be, there are plenty of options that exist beyond putting up with the status quo. You have to make things work for yourself – just like jobs back in your home country and everywhere else in the world. Don’t assume your employer is always looking out for your best interests – and their interests are typically quite different from yours.This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.