Record 52,000 non-regular school workers join strike for 3 days: ministry

SEOUL, A nationwide walkout by contract school workers entered its third day on Friday, with the number of strike participants falling to 13,281 from the previous day's 17,300, according to the Ministry of Education.

The cumulative number of contract school workers, mostly cafeteria cooks and after-school daycare assistants, who participated in the three-day nationwide strike by non-regular public employees reached 52,000, the largest on record, the ministry said. A similar strike staged for two days in 2017 drew a total of 35,000 non-regular school workers.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, a militant labor umbrella group, organized the strike to call for wage hikes for non-regular workers in the public sector, abolition of discrimination against them and the switching of their status to that of regular workers.

Non-regular school workers have demanded their basic pay be raised by 6.24 percent and discrimination be eliminated in the payment of various allowances. They have also asked that their wages be raised to a level equivalent to 80 percent of the lowest-ranking civil servants' pay from the current 60 percent during the tenure of the Moon Jae-in government. The education authorities have just proposed a pay hike of 1.8 percent for them.

Due to the strike, cafeteria lunch service was suspended at 1,474 of 10,454 elementary and secondary schools nationwide Friday, where students were served substitute foods like bread and milk or brought their own lunches, the ministry said.

The ministry noted a total of 8,689 schools operated their cafeterias normally for lunch service, up from 8,277 schools the previous day. It also said after-school daycare service was suspended at 62, or 1 percent, of the 5,980 public elementary schools nationwide.

An alliance of non-regular school workers with 95,000 members had planned on a three-day strike ending Friday.

As the education authorities have failed to heed their demands, however, the alliance will decide whether to extend their strike later in the day.

The alliance claimed that the actual number of contract school workers who joined the strike reached about 100,000 for three days. It also argued that steep pay hikes are necessary for about 151,000 non-regular school workers, as their monthly wages average 1.64 million won (US$1,400), compared with a state-recommended minimum monthly salary of 1.74 million won.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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