SEOUL -- South Korea's biggest labor group said on Tuesday it would launch an indefinite general strike on July 7 if lawmakers passed a bill it says would allow companies to hire more temporary workers.
A general strike by the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), which has 900,000 members, would be the first since December 1999, when the organization led a nationwide walk-out to protest against government-led financial sector reform.
The second-ranked Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has already warned it could call a strike for later this month over the same issue. Temporary workers do not enjoy the same benefits as full-time employees.
Lawmakers began reviewing the bill on Monday. No date has been set yet for a vote.
"We will launch a general strike immediately, even before July 7, if lawmakers push ahead with the legislation," FKTU said in a statement posted on its Web site (www.fktu.or.kr).
South Korea traditionally faces strikes every summer but there may be little public support for the unions this year because economic growth is slowing as exports weaken and domestic demand remains patchy.
Scandals over bribes and fraud have also tarnished the unions' image.
Workers at Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and other manufacturers are pushing for higher wages and the tone could be set by Hyundai's union, the country's biggest and the most powerful arm of the militant KCTU.
Foreign investors cite labor unrest as the main deterrent to doing business in South Korea and local share prices suffer a so-called "Korea Discount" because of the frequency of union action, plus poor corporate governance.