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Unions losing unity

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Apr 08,2009
The Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, one of the country’s two umbrella labor groups, is losing members.

This week union members at Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation, Incheon International Airport and the Incheon Rapid Transit Corporation are scheduled to vote on whether to quit the confederation, the latest in a series of recent defections.

As the unions at the three public corporations are known for their extreme protest actions, some experts predict changes in the nation’s labor groups are about to come. After withdrawing from the KCTU, Incheon International Airport plans to join the Federation of Korean Trade Unions. Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation and Incheon Rapid Transit Corporation plan to establish a new umbrella labor union.

The labor community is not at all surprised that the KCTU is losing members.

The militant union has been criticized for failing to promote the welfare of members, instead focusing on political struggles.

The labor community’s discontent with the KCTU reached a peak after a series of corruption stories involving the union broke in the news.

The confederation, however, is not being realistic. It’s moving backward. Its newly elected leader earlier told the media that “the union will fight to the end to overthrow the government.”

Executive members at the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, which is affiliated with the KCTU, sparked criticism on Saturday after spilling cow’s blood on a car at the Seoul Motor Show in protest of unfair treatment of non-regular workers in Korea and for beating a police officer who tried to make an arrest.

The incident brought shame on our country, as it was witnessed by visitors from overseas.

If the KCTU does not change amid growing criticism from the public, it will collapse in the near future. Time has come for affiliates of the KCTU to decide whether to stick to the confederation or terminate their membership.

In a recent vote, 63 percent of the Incheon Rapid Transit Corporation backed pulling out, but current labor union regulations require 66 percent of the vote, thus stalling the process to break away.

The government needs to ease this kind of regulation to help the labor union pursue its plans and the desire of 63 percent of its workforce.

The practice of prioritizing the labor collective agreement above the law should be reformed as well.

This is the best way to stop the umbrella labor organizations from pushing the work site labor unions into political struggle rather than a genuine labor movement.



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