Close to noon, the cold weather until yesterday was ironically more than 30 degrees Celsius. Bankers and employees of public financial institutions walked through the bustling city of Seoul. I was constantly in debt. The procession was slow due to the large size and the narrow and long procession. A procession of workers continued from Sejong-daero in Seoul to the vicinity of Namyeong Station. Tens of thousands of members of the financial union (Chairman Park Hongbae) shouted for strengthening financial publicity and fair compensation on the main streets of Seoul.
KDB member “relocation to Busan without balanced regional development”
“Moving the headquarters of the Korea Development Bank to Busan is an erroneous policy that was raised for political purposes and was followed without proper discussion. There was no balanced regional development philosophy anywhere, and the difficulty of sudden relocation as a worker was ignored. I went on strike to stop them.”
Kim Kyung-hoon (pseudonym), a third-year member of the Korea Development Bank trade union branch, made a clear statement. The Korea Development Bank branch, which had the largest number of union members, led the march. President Yoon Seok-yeol, who has been emphasizing since his presidential candidate days, has voiced a strong desire to block the relocation of the mountain to Busan.
A member of a commercial bank said he had decided to take part in a protest against the construction of intensive ‘gentlemen’ by some. Yoon Young-eun (pseudonym), a 6-year member of the KEB Hana Bank union, said, “Did the law prohibit strikes if the average annual wage is higher than in other industries? Can you do it?” he raised his voice. Some media criticized the ‘strike of 100 million aristocratic workers’.
The financial union estimated that the number of strikers on the day was around 30,000. Shortly before the strike, some branch offices decided to strike some kind of active strike, so the expectation that general union members would take part in the strike was completely wrong.
Indeed, some branch chairmen expressed their gratitude for such enthusiasm. Kim Hyung-sun, head of the IBK Industrial Bank of Korea union, went up to the podium to tell the story of the struggle that day and said, “The union members who filled this square through the division of the conservative media and the workers’ frame aristocratic. “I’m proud of this,” he shouted, “Let’s protect the financial publicity beyond our connection, region and political orientation.” Initially the union reported that the rally was 20,000.
Police gossip “The atmosphere is different because the bankers are on strike”
The number of police officers is less than half. The police estimated that 13,000 people attended the rally that day. According to data released by the Financial Supervisory Service, 13.6% of all union members took part in the strike. The participation of 17 member banks was 9.4%. 9,807 people. In particular, the Financial Supervisory Service worked hard to minimize the impact of the strike, noting that the participation rate of the five major banks was 0.8%.
Citizen reactions to the strike were mixed. Some citizens who watched the workers marching at a bus stop near the Bank of Korea complained, “The banker is on strike and is causing inconvenience to transportation.” Meanwhile, near City Hall, members of the workers’ union were cheering on workers, saying, “The strike of the financial unions is justified.”
The union’s street march is unusual even in the union’s long history of strikes. Even the police, who were sent to control the strike and the march, even chatted, saying, “This is a banker’s strike, so the age is low and the atmosphere is different from a strike in the manufacturing industry.” On that day, 1,500 police from 25 police stations including Jongno and Yongsan in Seoul were deployed.
The atmosphere of the procession was reminiscent of a candlelit vigil. Members of branch offices with branches across the country, such as banks, were assigned to work in other branches after a new hire, so they shared their joy with colleagues they had not seen for a long time.
The union originally planned to hold a closing rally by marching from Sejong-daero to the Samgak district near the Yongsan presidential office, but the number of participants was higher than expected and the march was a little slow, so it was changed to hold close rally in different parts of Seoul.
Steep shop closures, monopolization of rich polishes, a rough future
Contrary to the rather bright parade atmosphere, the reality facing the financial industry is harsh. Banks are closing more than 300 stores each year, starting with 304 in 2020, although financial experts worry about harm to the financially disadvantaged. Even after earning 12 trillion won in net profit in the first half of this year alone, the growth rate of workers’ wages remained at 0.9%, but was raised to 2.4% just before the strike.
The union proposed reforms such as a 5.2% wage increase rate which corresponds to the inflation rate and a pilot operation of 36 hours a week in a major representative discussion held shortly before the strike, but the employers did not accept them at all. The union also urged the government to strengthen guidelines for closing shops, but these were also ignored.
Because of this, labor officers who went on strike that day aimed their arrows at the government and capital. Chairman Park Hong-bae emphasized, “The strike for 100,000 financial workers is a strike to save people, protect financial publicity, and make a fair and just transfer.” He said, “We must defend the public nature against the government that privatizes public institutions and promotes labor reform, and financial consumers who risk their lives for shareholder dividends by reducing stores and employment.”
Kim Dong-myeong, chairman of the Korea Federation of Trade Unions, said, “The Yun Seok-yeol administration is misguided to reform labor to break the 52-hour work week and introduce a performance-based wage system with unlimited competition.” It was the law of history and the people who criticized the forcing of sacrifices and damaging the public character, and at the forefront of that judgment was the angry workers’ struggle group,” he said.
Yang Kyung-soo, chairman of the KCTU, said, “The two main trade unions have in common that they are workers fighting against the incompetence of the Yun Seok-yeol government, and workers fighting against capital and chaebols that have take advantage of as an opportunity for Corona 19. In order to ensure the rights and survival of the working people and the people, we will fight together so that the strike of the financial unions becomes the main unity of the two main trade unions by overcoming any noise without clinging to small differences.”