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Army's plan to layoff Korean workers sparks protests

SEOUL – The U.S. military’s apparent plan to lay off more than 400 Koreans employed on American bases in South Korea prompted protests outside at least two installations Friday.

“We’re like gum – they chew us up and then spit us out,” said Kim Chu Il, president of the Uijeongbu branch office of the U.S. Forces Korea Korean Employees Union. “Overnight, they have decided to take away the jobs of people who have worked (for USFK) for the past 10 or 20 years.

“It seems the U.S.-South Korea alliance really doesn’t exist,” he said.

Attempts this week to get the U.S. military to explain the details of its plans to lay off Korean employees on South Korean bases were unsuccessful.

However, in a Nov. 28 memorandum obtained by Stars and Stripes, U.S. Army Garrison – Red Cloud Commander William “Hank” Dodge informed union officials that effective Feb. 28, 2012, 199 positions will be abolished in Area I – the northernmost region of South Korea.

“Management will make every effort to place affected eligible employees into continuing position(s) in other organizations,” the memo said.

In addition, Kim said union officials have received notice that an additional 230 Korean base employees in Areas II, III and IV will also be let go on or about Feb. 28.

The 429 would represent about 3 percent of the 14,000 Koreans that Kim says are now employed on U.S. military bases in South Korea. They will come from a variety of occupations, including food service, administration and maintenance, he said.

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News of job cuts in South Korea comes as the U.S. Army announced this week it is moving forward with plans to reduce the size of its civilian employee workforce around the world. In July, the Army announced a planned reduction of approximately 8,700 positions by Sept. 30, 2012, due to cuts in federal funding.

The Army said those cuts would impact 70 locations across eight commands and agencies, with 90 percent of the cuts coming from Installation Management Command, Army Material Command, and Training and Doctrine Command.

The protests of the planned layoffs that were staged outside Camp Red Cloud and Camp Casey were not the only signs of labor strife at U.S. military installations in South Korea on Friday.

Outside Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, an estimated 500 South Koreans chanted and waved signs protesting the U.S. military’s decision last week to hire a new company, G4S, 1 to handle security for USFK bases.

A majority of the guards who worked for the previous security contract-holder, Joeun Systems Corp., say they refuse to work for the new company because G4S is requiring they work longer hours for lower wages.

That dispute has forced USFK to close some gates at its South Korean bases, and to use soldiers to man many of the gates that are still open.

rabiroffj@pstripes.osd.mil

chang.yookyong@pstripes.osd.mil

 

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