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Korea: Owners Close Luxury Hotel to Bust Union - IUF Calls for International Support

Posted to the IUF website 09-Sep-2005

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The IUF-affiliated Korean Federation of Service Workers' Unions (KFSU) is calling for international support for their struggle against an insidious form of union busting at the Hotel Riviera in Daejeon City. Union members there have been struggling since August last year against the owners' contrived closure of the facility, which the union has proven was carried out on fraudulent grounds in order to close the facility only long enough to break the union. Their struggle is now at a crucial turning point.

The deluxe, 174 room hotel and convention center, the largest hotel in the Chungcheong Provinces which span the middle of the country, was acquired by the Shinan Group in 2001. Public funds equivalent to slightly over half the purchase price were injected into the takeover deal through a tourism promotion fund aimed at stimulating local development. The new owner immediately began attempting to weaken the union through punitive work reassignments and dismissals of union militants. In 2003, management provoked a partial strike, locked out the union members and tried to scrap key aspects of the collective agreement, particularly clauses regarding trade union rights. The union responded with a 127-day strike which was ultimately ended through local government mediation.

The terms of the settlement were never honored, however, and in June 2004 management directly threatened to close the hotel if the union president did not resign and dissolve the union. On August 1, the company sent dismissal notices to all union members. Talks mediated by local government broke down over management's insistence on replacing the union with a "works council", and on August 31 the company announced that the hotel was closing.

August 29, 2005: Hotel Riviera Union members, KFSU members and representatives of the Korean Democratic Labour Party in front of the locked entrance to the Hotel Riviera in Yuseong, The banner in front reads: "Press Conference Demanding that Shianan Group Chairman Park Sun-seok implement the National Labour Relations Commission ruling and for the return to normal operations of the Riviera Hotel"

The union fought back by rallying local community groups and through a tenacious campaign including local rallies, trips to Seoul for demonstrations at Shinan Group headquarters and occupying the hotel at night. The union also filed charges against the owners with the regional Labour Relations Commission, contending that the closure on ostensible financial grounds was in fact intended to bust the union. Shinan has made no attempt to lease or sell the profitable property, and has even tried to recruit irregular workers.

In November 2004, the regional Labour Relations Commission validated the union's complaint, ruling that the hotel closure was fraudulent and the dismissals were illegal. The decision required the hotel to reinstate the dismissed union members and resume normal operations. The company appealed to the National Labour Relations Commission, which has now upheld the earlier ruling.

Rulings by the Commission, however, are difficult to enforce. The union is fighting not only for reinstatement and the resumption of an enterprise which is vital for local employment. It is seeking to establish an important precedent and prevent future closures motivated by employers' hostility to normal industrial relations based on union recognition and collective bargaining.

In the course of the long struggle at the Hotel Riviera, the IUF secretariat has written the regional and national Labour Relations Commissions to urge them to uphold the law and defend trade union rights. The union has now requested that messages be sent to the President and Labour Minister of Korea, calling for an end to the scandalous closure through a rapid implementation of the decision of the National Labour Relations Commission. Employers should never be able to close up shop simply to avoid dealing with unions!

You can send a message to the government of Korea, urging it to act now to ensure that the hotel quickly resumes normal operations and all dismissed union members are reinstated with full back pay, by clicking here. Copies of your message will be sent to the IUF secretariat and to our affiliated hotel union in Korea.

We thank you in advance for your solidarity and support.