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Legal Victory for Outsourced Seoul Renaissance Marriott Workers - Reinstate Them Now!

Posted to the IUF website 24-Jul-2007

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On July 19, the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of a group of hotel workers and their union who have been fighting since January 1 of last year to reclaim their jobs and their wages after being subcontracted and then fired from Seoul's luxury Renaissance Marriott Hotel (for the full background click here). The IUF is calling for international support to ensure that the court's ruling is respected and the workers are reinstated immediately in their jobs.

The roots of their struggle go back to 2001, when over one hundred housekeeping employees were forced to resign as direct hotel employees and reemployed as workers at a hastily created outsourcing firm, the "Renaissance Service Team". At a stroke, their wages fell by 60% as outsourced employees performing the same work as before.

The workers formed a union - the Renaissance Labour Union, a member of the IUF-affiliated Korean Federation of Service Workers' Unions (KFSU) - and filed a complaint for unfair labour practices. In May 2004 a Labour Ministry investigation determined that the subcontracting constituted an "illegal dispatch" (i.e. the workers' real employment relationship was with the contracting company) and ordered the hotel to employ them directly. The employer failed to comply, so in November 2004 a group of workers initiated a civil lawsuit, charging the hotel with delayed payment of wages - the difference between direct employees' wages and those paid by the service company. In retaliation, the outsourcing company sacked them on December 31, 2005.

On January 1, 2006, union members set up a daily picket line. Regular union demonstrations, supported by the KFSU and the regional organization of the national center KCTU, were held in front of the hotel despite a court order authorizing the hotel to claim over USD 20,000 in "damages" from the workers as compensation for alleged business losses.

Justice was again denied when, in November 2006, the Public Prosecutor's Office mysteriously dropped proceedings against the Renaissance management for failing to implement the Labour Ministry's ruling that the outsourcing was illegal. The workers had to wait for the decision in the civil suit, and continued to demonstrate despite new claims for damages and intimidation by riot police.

In its July 19 decision in the civil suit against the hotel, the court clearly confirmed that the outsourcing operation was an illegal scam, and ordered the workers to be reinstated as direct employees. Further, the court ordered the hotel to pay each worker ca. USD1,400 monthly until they are reinstated in their positions at the hotel, and ordered the hotel to bear four-fifths of the costs of the lawsuit.

The hotel, however, may appeal this ruling. Imposing yet more waiting on these courageous workers would be grotesque. The IUF is therefore requesting that messages be sent to the hotel management and to the appropriate government authorities, calling for the immediate implementation of the court ruling.

The outsourced workers must be reinstated now! Your support could make a difference. Click here to send a message. Copies of your message will be automatically forwarded to the union and to the IUF secretariat.