Nonregular school workers to stage joint strike this week

SEOUL, South Korean schools will likely be hit hard by a joint walkout by their nonregular workers this week.

An alliance of nonregular employees working at elementary and secondary schools, including cafeteria cooks, dietitians and administrative assistants for teachers, has threatened to stage a general strike from Wednesday to Friday to push through wage increases.

Ahead of the launch of the strike, representatives of the nonregular workers and education officials held lastminute negotiations on Tuesday. But it is unclear whether the negotiations will narrow the gap between the two sides, informed officials and watchers say.

The alliance of nonregular school workers calls for a basic pay increase of 6.24 percent and eliminating discrimination in the payment of various allowances. They also demand that their wages be raised to a level equivalent to 80 percent of the lowestranking civil servants' pay during the tenure of the Moon Jaein government.

But the education authorities have proposed a pay hike of 1.8 percent for the nonregulars.

About 50,000 of the alliance's 95,000 members are expected to participate in the threeday strike.

The general strike, if implemented, is expected to affect the provision of school lunches, afterschool daycare services and many other supplementary school operations. Two years ago, about 15,000 nonregular school employees staged a strike, paralyzing food services at nearly 2,000 elementary, middle and high schools.

The nonregular school workers have planned their joint walkout in solidarity with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a militant labor umbrella group. In a related move, the KCTU, whose nearly 1 million members make it one of the nation's largest labor groups, has vowed to stage a general strike on July 18, in an effort to press the Moon government to protect labor rights.

The education authorities are asking schools nationwide to consider offering substitute foods, like bread, to students or reducing school hours to cope with a walkout by cafeteria workers. In case of afterschool daycare services, teachers and regular school employees will likely be mobilized to substitute for strike participants.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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