Korean Unions call for workplace measures to stop spread of Covid-19 infections in call centres
In the wake of an infection cluster at an outsourcing company, UNI affiliates the Korea Federation of Clerical Finance Labour Union (KFCLU) and the Korea Federation of Service Workers Union (KFSU) have issued an urgent joint statement calling for immediate measures to protect call centre workers. These workers particularly vulnerable as they are often crammed into small individual workspaces.
The call to action comes as the Seoul Metropolitan City Government announced a new cluster of infections at an outsourced call centre agency for an insurance company on 10 March. A total of 90 workers and their families have tested positive for the Covid-19 infection. Many of the workers are union members.
The joint statement called on the main contracting insurance company to protect these outsourced jobs and not switch their contract to another call centre. The unions also urged the companies to exercise social responsibility in this critical period. The workers say they are pressured by the company to meet call targets, but no appropriate preventive measures were apparently implemented.
The unions also urged the government to allocate from the Special Disaster Budget to provide living costs support to help the affected workers. The KFCLU requested the Ministry of Employment & Labour to swiftly conduct a full investigation into call centre companies to ensure they comply with government's guidelines on quarantine and preventive measures to ensure a safe workplace environment. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has signalled its intention to investigate call centres operated by public and private companies regarding their state of preparedness and their actions taken to date.
The Korea Federation of Service Workers Union (KFSU) held a press conference on 11 March to highlight workplace issues. Bro Kang Gyu-Hyok, President of KFSU, told the press that there are insufficient measures at workplaces to prevent infections.
The KFSU reiterated its call for the main contracting insurance company to not externalize the costs of this incident to the affected workers. The key demands made at the press conference are for companies to take the necessary steps in the workplace such as providing personal protective equipment, installing thermometers, and ensuring that workers put on isolation orders or are forced to be absent from work are paid.
UNI Apro Regional Secretary, Rajendra Acharya, supports the call made by the Korean affiliates. He said, “It is unfortunate to learn that members of our affiliates are now directly impacted by this worldwide health threat. Our first wish for them and their family members is to have a speedy recovery. Our second is that their jobs are protected, and they receive payment while affected. Our member unions have now a crucial role to raise the voice of affected workers in this critical period, and UNI will stand with them.”