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Care workers for the Seoul Public Agency for Social Service (Seoul PASS) with the support of their union Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union (KPTU) – went on strike on the 24th of April.
The city council of Seoul has decided to cut the operating budget for Seoul PASS which ensures vulnerable people and children receive the support they need. KPTU sees this cut to funding as an attempt by the city council to reduce the capacity of services. As a result of the funding cut workers fear losing their jobs and the future viability of the service.
Seoul City Council’s political decision not to fund PASS will also result in a halt to the hiring of much-needed full-time care workers and shut down all child care centres run by the PASS. The Council has stated that it will instead expand its support to private care providers. Worryingly PASS management has also terminated the workers’ collective agreement. The restructuring plan also envisages drastically reducing the number of comprehensive home care centres (CHCCs) from 12 to 4 starting in June 2023.
The creation and expansion of care services is an important achievement both for service users and for workers. Service users receive better quality care and workers receive better pay and conditions. However, up to 90 percent of all care services available in South Korea are privatised. The establishment of 14 metropolitan and provincial level PASS (as of June 2022) is a major achievement for the Korean trade union movement. With PASS, local authorities directly employ care workers offering them better wages and working conditions that in turn help improve the quality and accessibility of the services provided. Unions like the KPTU have been on the frontline of the fight for the expansion of accessible and affordable public care services, despite the provision of care being seen as within the domain of the family and the responsibility of women.
PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli said:
“We strongly condemn the termination of PASS workers’ collective agreement by management. This is a direct violation of the fundamental human and labour right to collective bargaining as per ILO C. 98.
Rosa Pavanelli PSI General Secretary
We urge the Mayor and City Council of Seoul to reverse this politicised decision and to stop supporting private over public care services
PSI Regional Secretary, Kate Lappin, said:
Kate Lappin PSI Regional Secretary for the Asia & Pacific region
We commend the KPTU and their members who fought to have care recognised as a public good and a human right and to establish the PASS system
"We are confident the Korean union movement will continue to fight for the people who need quality care and the workers who care for them, and PSI will continue to stand with them,” she added.
PSI will continue to support workers at Seoul Pass to fight for decent work and quality public services. In partnership with PSI, KPTU launched a report examining the process – including the Korean unions mobilisation and campaigns - that led to the creation of PASS: The municipalisation of care service providers in South Korea.
PSI has been highlighting the failures of privatisation in the care sector across the world as well as the potential for resisting and reversing privatisation and reforming the sector to improve the quality of care and the associated workforce crisis. We contributed to a policy paper titled Care Systems that was presented at the last world congress of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) which recommended equitable access to quality care services for all with strong references and commitments to rights for care workers, Decent Work, pay, public funding and the regulation of care services. What is happening in Seoul is at odds with these recommendations.
As the KPTU Seoul PASS Branch is planning for additional industrial actions in the coming month to defend Seoul PASS and the workers' rights, KPTU will continue fighting to expand
public care against the government's private-centred care policy. You can follow the campaign here: https://www.kptu.net/
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