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ICFTU Calls For Union Rights in Korea & APEC

Meeting with Korean Prime Minister calls for union rights in Korea and union voice in APEC

Brussels, November 14, 2005 (ICFTU OnLine): Guy Ryder, the General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions today met the Korean Prime Minister, Lee Hai-chan in a bid to place social justice and workers' rights on APEC's agenda.

Ryder led a delegation of Asian and Latin American trade unionists that are holding a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Labour Network in Seoul, Korea on 14-15 November. They urged the Prime Minister, as well as APEC Executive Director Seok-Young Choi, to work for setting up an APEC Labour Forum and to adopt concrete measures to promote labour participation in APEC.

The trade union delegation emphasized the ICFTU's support for the Korean trade union centres, FKTU and KCTU in their continuing struggle to secure full respect for trade union rights in Korea. They urged the Government to enter into dialogue with the Korean trade unions, in particular to redirect the Government's proposed "road map" for industrial relations reform and to stop the exploitation of irregular workers.

In response, the Korean Prime Minister Lee Hai-chan said that his government was committed to acting on the recommendations of the ILO and the OECD regarding the establishment of respect for freedom of association in Korea.

On the APEC theme, Ryder continued "When the leaders of the 21 countries that make up APEC meet this week under the theme of Towards One Community: Meet the Challenge, Make the Change they will not be discussing the one subject at the forefront of their citizens' minds: how to make globalization and trade work for all. APEC's real challenge is not to enlarge trade and investment in line with the Bogor goals adopted in 1994, but to create opportunities and ensure fair distribution of the wealth generated by globalisation amongst all in the region and throughout the rest of the world."

The ILO estimates that 2 billion people in Asia live on 2 US Dollars or less per day.

Noriyuki Suzuki, the General Secretary of the ICFTU Asian and Pacific Regional Organisation (ICFTU-APRO) added that, "In this context, APEC must change its imbalanced, business-oriented approach to globalization and give the highest priority to achieving social justice based on decent work and full respect of fundamental workers' rights, with a concrete and detailed work programme to give effect to that".

The ICFTU/APLN has been calling on APEC leaders to endorse the establishment of an APEC Labour Forum, in the form of an APEC formal consultative mechanism with trade unions comparable with the current arrangements for access by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). "As long as business is playing a leading part in APEC but workers' concerns are shunned, it is difficult to believe that the growth and prosperity the forum aims to achieve will benefit them," concluded Hilda Sanchez, representing the ICFTU Regional Organisation of Workers for the Americas (ICFTU-ORIT).

Korean Prime Minister Lee Hai-chan expressed sympathy for the trade union proposals on APEC and said he would convey the trade union views to APEC.

The ICFTU represents 145 million workers through its 234 affiliated organisations in 154 countries and territories. The ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions: http://www.global-unions.org

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