A powerful South Korea labor group said yesterday it would call hun-dreds of thousands of its members to strike next week against a government bill aimed at stopping union militancy and securing flexible job markets.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the country's two umbrella unions, announced the strike ahead of a massive protest yesterday in Seoul.
"The general strike begins on November 26 to get the government bill repealed," said Lee Su-Bong, spokesman for the confederation that claims 600,000 members.
Intensifying weeks of labor unrest, tens of thousands of KCTU workers gathered for the protest in the capital under the watch of 9,000 troops who had hundreds of buses ready to be used as barricades.
The controversial bill will restrict militant union activities and allow private companies to hire more temporary workers, a key demand in trade talks with other countries.
The bill, part of President Roh Moo-Hyun's promised reforms, is awaiting approval from parliament which is expected to deliberate the legislation next week.
Unions want the bill to be scrapped saying it would infringe on labor rights and destabilize the job market with the increase of what they term "non-regular" workers.
Adding to labor tensions gripping the country, government employees have said they would strike on Nov. 25 for more rights despite police crackdowns aimed at stopping the action.
South Korea bans public servants from taking part in union activities and the KCTU-backed Korean Government Employees Union has demanded the right to strike.
Police have rounded up government-employee unionists and stormed union offices in the past weeks to disrupt the planned strike, warning that strikers could face dismissal and arrest.