There lies long hours, low pay behind scenes at polling stations

2024.04.11 17:21
Bae Si-eun

People vote at Gongdeok-dong Polling Station 4 at Gongdeok 1-2 public parking lot in Mapo-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday, the day of the 22nd parliamentary election. By Jeong Hyo-jin

People vote at Gongdeok-dong Polling Station 4 at Gongdeok 1-2 public parking lot in Mapo-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday, the day of the 22nd parliamentary election. By Jeong Hyo-jin

In the 22nd general election, there were voices from the frontline that the labor rights of public servants in charge of election duties have not improved. There was even an unfortunate incident in which a public servant who worked as a poll worker died during the early voting period. The long hours and low wages of public servants are behind the convenient voting sites.

On April 8, Mr. A (59), a civil servant at Namwon City Hall in North Jeolla Province, who worked as a polling clerk during early voting for the general election, died. Mr. A collapsed the day after working long hours on the 5th and 6th of April for early voting and died the next day. The National Public Employees' Labor Union released a statement saying, "Mr. A died of overwork due to long hours of labor, and the sacrifice of the deceased should be promptly compensated in the line of duty.”

Mr. B, who worked with Mr. A during early voting, said, "Mr. A told me that he was not feeling well lately and that he was very tired and had a headache on the day of early voting." Mr. B said, "However, it would have been difficult for him to get off work early alone because the entire staff was working that day."

"It's practically like being mobilized for election work," said a government employee who worked in early voting. "They sent out two notices asking for 10 people per school to work as election workers," said Mr. Lee, 56, a civil servant who works at a school administration office. "Everyone seemed to avoid it, so I applied thinking I would sacrifice myself," he said.

They complained that the long hours of work were unavoidable for the running of the polling stations which are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mr. Choi, 50, a civil servant who has worked at an administrative welfare center for 20 years, said, "During the 13 hours of work, we are hardly guaranteed time to eat and take breaks." "I was in charge of guiding 7,500 voters, who came to the polls on the two early voting days, but afterward, my mouth was dry and I could barely speak."

Mr. B, who has worked as a public servant for 20 years, said, "A month before Election Day, I was asked to do additional election-related tasks such as managing public notices and wall posters." "I was exhausted and sometimes fell ill by the end of the day," he said.

There are also complaints that election officials are underpaid. "Observers who work for six hours get paid 100,000 won, but our officials work 13 hours and get paid around 130,000 won," Lee said, adding, "We work for almost minimum wage, and I wonder if we're at their disposal because we are just local civil servants."

"It is necessary to recruit more workers, such as allocating two to three voting clerks from citizens or retired public servants for every public servant," said Lee Hae-joon, chairman of the National Public Service Labor Union, adding, "Public servants should also be compensated sufficiently."

The Ministry of the Interior and Safety said, "We recently revised the service regulations to guarantee two days of alternative holidays for public servants who work on vote counting," adding, "We will try to collect opinions from the field as much as possible to improve election workload and compensation issues."

※This article has undergone review by a professional translator after being translated by an AI translation tool.

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