Friday, March 19, 2010

Migrants Center Mired in Turf War

A support center for migrant workers being set up in Incheon is triggering a turf war, setting their rights advocacy group against a consortium of an employers' lobby and a union group, which was selected to run the center.

The state-run Human Resources Development Service (HRD Korea) recently selected the Incheon Employers Federation (IEF) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) to manage support centers for immigrant workers in Incheon and Daegu, both opening this year, until 2012.

The consortium will be given around 500-600 million won per year in return for their services as operator.

However, migrant workers' advocates are up in arms, arguing that the two organizations have nothing to do with the welfare of foreign workers.

Lee Young, executive secretary of the Joint Committee for Migrant Workers in Korea (JCMK), said he couldn't understand the selection, saying that the consortium has no experience for the job it's been given.

"Though there are local organizations dedicated to helping migrant workers, HRD Korea chose the consortium of an employers' association and the FKTU," he said. "It is against the basic reason for an immigrant worker support center. It is like having the fox guard the henhouse."

Lee added that an association of small- and medium-sized enterprises once opposed the idea of migrant worker support centers for using the employment insurance fund. "It doesn't make sense that now the employers' organization wants to operate one," he said. "The IEF should instead open a center for employers to educate them on how to work with migrant workers properly."

He pointed out that the FKTU is not particularly interested in migrant workers' labor rights. HRD Korea said they chose the consortium because they wanted the groups to cooperate on the issue of assisting immigrant workers. "We have not confirmed the selection of operators yet. We will summon them next week and check on their plans," an HRD Korea official said.

Currently, there are five such centers nationwide in Seoul, Uijeongbu, Ansan, Gimhae and Masan. HRD Korea will open three more this year in Incheon, Daegu and Cheonan.

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