After a one-and-a-half-year strike for better wages and fairer treatment, the Oracle Korea Workers Union won a first basic recognition agreement with software and computing giant Oracle earlier this month.
Previously, Oracle had refused to negotiate with the union and rejected the elected union leaders’ legal mandate to represent workers. The agreement provides the union with key resources that will allow it to better advocate for Oracle employees, such as an office, the ability to represent workers during work time, and security against retaliatory pay reductions for the union leaders.
During the strike, workers camped out in front of Oracle, using a bus as a makeshift office. The union’s demands have not been fully met yet and some disputed items remain, but these will hopefully be resolved in upcoming negotiations. The union aims for a collective bargaining agreement with the company.
Chris Ng, Regional Secretary of UNI APRO, praised the strong commitment of the Oracle Korea workers and expressed congratulations on the first basic agreement. He said, “Oracle Korea Workers Union’s creative solution of converting a second-hand bus into a union office in front of the company’s headquarters is a great example of finding innovative solutions to the challenges we face. This union office-bus was located in front of Oracle’s head office where lots of tourists and local people saw it. This was a big dilemma for Oracle Korea management.”
Mr. Ng met with Oracle Korea union leaders during his visit in Seoul some months ago one of many instances of international support for these workers.
“The solidarity shown in the UNI ICTS global conference last August in Kuala Lumpur gave us renewed power to continue our struggle,” said Brother Ahn Jong-Cheul, the Oracle workers union president.
Teresa Casertano, Head of UNI Global ICTS said, “From Korea to California tech workers are organizing against unfair and abusive practices, and when we finally sign the first full collective agreement with Oracle Korea, it will be an important step in changing the culture of tech and IT to one where workers’ voices are heard.”
During the negotiation process, Korean Finance & Clerical Workers Labor Union and the Oracle Korea Workers Union brought the case to a National Audit hearing, which took place in September and October. This hearing focused on a disagreement about whether Moon Gun, CEO of Oracle Korea Co Ltd, is responsible for the company’s Korean business, including industrial relations. Lee Jae-Gap, the Minister of Employment and Labor found that Moon “has full responsibility for business operations in Korea.”
According to Brother Ahn, this legal clarification of a CEO’s responsibility in foreign companies operating in Korea is important for the government to be able to correct the malpractices of foreign companies currently exploiting legal loopholes.
The Oracle Korea Workers Union was formed in October 2017 primarily as a response to unfair and non-transparent salary and compensation systems in the company. The average working hours at Oracle Korea are about 80-100 hours per week, yet most workers have seen no wage increase over the last 10 years.
In South Korea, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft are already unionized. The new SAP Korea Workers is still in the process of negotiating their first collective agreement.