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Korean nurses strike to demand ratios

Korean nurses strike to demand ratios

Joon Shik Shin (centre, wearing the CFMEU shirt) with ANMF staff

While the Hollywood screen actors and writers’ strikes have been grabbing global attention, healthcare workers in Korea have also been striking. On 13 July, members of the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU), including nurses and nursing aides, went on strike in pursuit of conditions that will allow better care for patients, and a safer workplace for members.

A key ask of the workers is a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:5. Other core demands include an expansion of integrated nursing care services, a 10.7 per cent wage increase for healthcare workers who have been on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recovery support for hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 to ‘facilitate the normalisation of the hospitals’ (Public Services International).

It was the first general strike of Korean health and medical workers in nearly two decades, as they joined workers from other industries across the country who have been striking since 3 July.

The widespread escalation in industrial action follows earlier unsuccessful moves by the Korean Government to increase the standard full-time work week to 69 hours, in addition to increasing restrictions on workers’ rights, and a planned redeployment of American military assets – including, potentially, nuclear weapons – to South Korea.

‘The current general strike by Korean workers is completely different,’ said Joon Shik Shin, a Korean unionist who visited ANMF (Vic Branch) in mid-July to appraise us of the situation. ‘The Korean government has destroyed all sectors – including labour unions, livelihoods and peace movements.’

Calls for peace

The striking workers are also demanding Korea’s president, the recently elected conservative Yoon Suk-yeol, stand down, in particular due to his push for increased militarisation of South Korea in preference to a peace accord with North Korea.

Joon Shik Shin hopes ‘Australian and Korean peace activists [will build] … a strong solidarity to end the Korean war’.

South Korea didn’t sign the 1953 armistice agreement between the Unites States, China and North Korea that officially ended fighting in the Korean War, meaning that the war has never technically ended.

Members interested in supporting the calls for peace can sign a petition to officially end the war and sign a peace agreement.