The Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the nation's largest and oldest trade union umbrella group, says it will participate in a mass protest rally by striking railway workers set for this Saturday, December 28th in a show of support for the Korean Railway Workers' Union and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
Explaining its decision to Arirang TV Tuesday, the FKTU said it was appalled by the government's use of force Sunday when police raided the main office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to arrest key union leaders of the state-run rail operator, KORAIL.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is the second-largest trade union center and is considered to be more militant.
The FKTU said such plunder of a major labor union federation by the authorities was unprecedented.
KORAIL has been striking for more than two weeks in protest of the government's decision to create a subsidiary for a new high-speed KTX train service saying the move is the first step toward privatization.
The government says the strike is illegal, and it dispatched hundreds of riot police to the KCTU headquarters, taking into custody more than 1-hundred-30 railway union workers.
The FKTU is demanding the government apologize for the raid and take disciplinary action against those responsible for the decision to use force.
Until its demands are met, the largest labor union says it will refuse to talk to the government.
In an emergency meeting of union member representatives Monday, the FKTU decided to drop out of the Tripartite Commission of labor, management, and government.
The decision severs the official channel of dialogue between the nation's labor unions and the government as the FKTU was the sole group representing labor in the Tripartite Commission, which was launched in 1998.
KORAIL's decision to hire around 5-hundred new workers to replace the striking railway workers has also upset the labor groups.
In a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won called on the striking railway workers to return to work, saying the government has already given its word not to privatize KORAIL.
Kim Yeon-ji, Arirang News.