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School child care workers plan nationwide strike to demand better working conditions

All News 16:19 November 05, 2020

SEJONG, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- After-school child care workers at elementary schools across the country plan to stage a strike this week, according to a workers' rights group Thursday, raising concerns of a national void in after-school child care for young elementary school students with working parents.

According to a national rights advocacy group for non-regular school workers, some 6,000 after-school child care workers plan to participate in a one-day strike Friday to demand better working conditions. The number of participants represents roughly half of the country's after-school child care workers.

Expecting a vacuum in the service, the education ministry plans to ask non-essential parents to refrain from using the programs Friday. It also plans to better utilize non-striking workers and also mobilize teachers and faculty at local community centers.

This file photo shows children playing in an after-school child care classroom. (Yonhap)

Around 200,000 elementary school students with working parents who cannot tend to their child in the afternoon benefit from the program. Over 80 percent of children in the program are either first- or second-grade students.

Workers are demanding that the education ministry withdraw a bill that transfers the responsibility of the program from schools to local governments, as well as an elevation in employment status to regular workers from the current part-time status.

"Child care workers have met the emergency demand in service from the new coronavirus pandemic despite only being armed with face masks and a sense of responsibility," the labor union representing the workers said.

The unions claim that workers, who are part-time employees, have been working longer hours without additional pay.

Child care workers chant a slogan demanding the shift of their part-time job status to that of regular employment during a rally in Yeouido, western Seoul, on June 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

According to the union, local education offices have proposed in collective bargaining a 0.9 percent increase in wages for next year, lower than the 1.5 percent state-mandated minimum wage increase.

"The education offices are arguing that working time is not subject to bargaining as it is not related to wages," a union official said, adding they will consider additional measures unless a settlement comes after the upcoming strike.


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