S Korean civil workers on strike against labour bill

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - South Korean civil workers launched an unprecedented strike on Monday to protest the government's labour reform bill, despite police crackdowns and warnings of dismissal.

The Korean Government Employees' Union (KGEU) said 44,309 of its 140,000 members stayed away from their jobs. The Labour Ministry said the actual number of striking public servants was far lower.

Some 16,000 police have been mobilised to guard government buildings and local administration offices. Police were ordered to disband any rallies and arrest all striking public servants.

The KGEU said its members in health, water, sewerage and cleaning services did not join the walkout to minimise public inconvenience.

Unions want the government to scrap its labour bill which would allow public servants to form unions but bans strikes.

The bill, which awaits approval from parliament, would also restrict militant union activities and allow companies to hire more temporary workers in the private sector.

Unions say the bill will destabilise the job market by increasing the numbers of workers on temporary contracts.