Even during the winter vacation when we were away from the university, we easily encountered news about Chung-Ang University from various sources of media In particular, articles dealing with Chung-Ang Universities’ cleaning staff going on a labor strike. Starting from December 17th last year, the conflicts are now finally starting to ease off. The university is making an effort to handle the problem as well as the cleaning staff. As they attempt to resolve the conflict, now would be the time to ascertain the truth of how our university and cleaning staff are taking a stand, how they are being victimized and how they are coping with the problem.
a) The roots of the labor strike:
On September 27th, 2013, the cleaning staff joined the labor union, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), to protect their working rights. At this juncture, the conflicts with a new service center called the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) arose as the TNS and the university only communicated with them. As a last measure, the KCTU went on a strike demanding for fair treatment and a better working environment.
b) The CAU’s overall position on the strike:
The university is clarifying its position to appeal to their suffering. In summary, the university’s stand on striking can be concluded in three main arguments. Firstly, the university’s role is to help both the TNS and the cleaning staff to be faithful to their role, and not to be in a position where they can get involved with the problems that the workers, belonging to the TNS, are facing. The overall stance of CAU is that as universities are not welfare agencies, they have the right to make the maximum use of student’s tuition fees through mutual competitions among the labor unions in order to minimize expenses. They added that disputes about indirect employment, emphasizing the burden of wage increase and expenses when turned into direct employment.
Secondly, the strike is causing discomfort to students, the teaching staff and even the general public. The workers are occupying the office of the Chief of Staff and the main building. They are singing loudly and making noises, which is disturbing the job performance of staff members.
Lastly, the strike issue at CAU became known to the outside world due to signs stating “You will be fined one million won, for each hand-written poster that you put up”, but this does not mean each time that students put up a poster, that they will be fined. CAU is perhaps just worried that the strike could destroy the peace and threaten the safety of people and it was a simple warning to stop the act.
c) Students raise opposing voices to strike:
There are also students including student committee members who are opposed to the cleaning staff going on strike. They are in the same position as the university, in the belief that the staff should be communicating with the service center who are directly employing them, not with the university members themselves. The main points of this issue can be concluded in three parts which are; the composition of a disciplinary committee, the right to employ new cleaning staffs, and the guarantee of secure payment during labor. This does not have anything to do with improving the working conditions that some parts of the media and the public are focusing on. Judging from this, the KCTU has been progressing with an unreasonable strike. The student’s committee wants this problem to be settled in a way that can improve the cleaning staff’s requirements, which are not unreasonable, such as taking responsibility of exterior parts of the building and preparing a suitable place for them to rest. The students’ committee and those students against the strike will work with the university to settle the problem in a way both the staffs’ working rights and the working environment are satisfactory.
d) The arguments of the cleaning staff:
The staff is arguing that they are only demanding the basic rights that have not been upheld until now. Their one main demand is to get a standard of working condition just like the staff at other universities. The collective arguments that they claim are already being applied in many other institutions such as; Korea University, Yonsei University, and Hongik University. The management service contract deals with many details such as not being able to make a noise during work and no resting outside of their break times. They argue that these are exploiting their human rights. Above all, the most questioned problem is cleaning the exterior areas of the university. According to the contract, it states that ‘every member of staff should take responsibility for one building’, however in reality, they take charge of both interior and exterior parts of the buildings without extra time or extra workers. Putting in substitute workers during the act of dispute and, paying minimum wages after ten o’clock is evident illegality and the staff is letting people know about this by going on strike. The staff is demanding proper action in mediating between the janitorial service company and the cleaning staff. So far, the TNS has been showing an insincere stance against the workers arguing that the company itself can’t make any decision alone without having a discussion with the university. That is why the negotiations must be dealt with by the university prior to having talks with the TNS, because according to the Contract and Management Service, the university has the position of power for determining the number of workers, payments, way of work and handling regular reports.
e) The current situation:
They have come to this decision to put aside the problem for a while, as the new semester has started and they hope for a peaceful and satisfactory settlement. However, there is new growing interest and increasing concern as the TNS was excluded from the labor union selection process meeting held in the February 11th. Prior to the intense conflicts between the workers and the university, the current situation seems to have eased off more. After calling off the protest, the university put up an announcement that all the problems have been settled. However the workers criticized the University for announcing only their stance without revealing the worker’s position also.
The new semester has started. There now seems more hope of the problem being settled, but there should still be more done to solve the conflict that has been in progress until now. Only through sincere conversations can the situation be concluded positively. Blindly demanding one’s own benefits without the will to adopt a compromising position would only worsen the situation. It’s time for CAU to show that people are their priority.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >