Korea: KHMU hosts Virtual International Conference on COVID-19 and Role of Care Unions
The Covid-19 pandemic that broke out 6 months ago has impacted frontline health care workers the most. Health care sector unions everywhere have accumulated a diverse range of experience through their struggles in dealing with the disease. Different country context will shape the experiences accordingly.
South Korea has a head start in tackling the outbreak decisively with the strong involvement of healthcare workers. The Korean Health Medical Union (KHMU) played a leading role in mobilising to both serve the public interests and to also protect their members during the pandemic. The KHMU leaders decided to organise an online forum to share their experience and to also learn from care unions in other countries.
Held on 30 June, the online forum saw an impressive line-up of speakers drawn from South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy. UNI Global Union and UNI Asia and Pacific was represented by Adrian Durtschi, Head of UNICARE, and Rajendra Acharya, UNI Apro Regional Secretary.
Rajendra in his solidarity greetings said that the Covid-19 pandemic is teaching us an important lesson in that the work we (unions) do is not only important but also essential. This makes it all the more important to reach out to the unorganised worker in the care sector everywhere.
Adrian Durtschi expressed his appreciation for the KHMU initiative. Although the pandemic is proving to be very disruptive to the normal patterns of work and travel which prevents in-person conferences from taking place. It has also spurred and encouraged a new wave of global and regional solidarity amongst unions through the use of communications technology. This virtual conference plays a key role in solidifying the solidarity and enhancing the exchange of experiences gained during this pandemic.
Sister Na Sun-Ja, KHMU President, expressed that she was very happy with the strong support from UNI affiliates for this very first such conference they are organising online for international participants. She also hopes that the virtual conference will serve as a knowledge exchange platform for care sector unions from all over to share their experiences of COVID-19 and to collectively discuss about the future of unions’ role.
The two-hour long forum facilitated by Sister Jay Choi, UNI APRO Korea Desk Coordinator, saw a rich and diverse sharing of the struggles and even innovative approaches to organising during the pandemic. With the speakers and participants agreeing that it was a fruitful exchange, the KHMU announced that a second such conference would be held again on 21 July.
Expressing appreciation for KHMU’s initiative, Adrian Durtschi, Head of UNICARE in his closing remarks said, “Care unions are more important than ever and we need to organize to build more resilience against the pandemic. UNICARE and its affiliates has always asked and will keep fighting for better staffing, better working conditions, PPE for all healthcare workers and that all healthcare jobs are decent jobs and not precarious and informal.”