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DP snubs 3 parties’ fresh proposal

Business leaders criticize legislature for ignoring warnings about layoffs   PLAY AUDIO

July 03,2009
The nation’s five business lobbies urged the legislature to resolve the deadlock as soon as possible at a press conference yesterday at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in downtown Seoul. From left: Kim Ki-mun, chairman of the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business; Cho Suck-rai, chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries; Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Sakong Il, chairman of the Korea International Trade Association; and Lee Soo-young, chairman of the Korea Employers Federation. By Cho Mun-gyu
The nation’s three conservative political parties struck a deal yesterday to extend the grace period for the non-regular worker statute by 18 months, but liberal opposition lawmakers refused to endorse the plan.

“The Grand National Party will accept the Liberty Forward Party’s proposal to delay the implementation of the non-regular worker statute by a year and a half,” said GNP lawmaker Cho Won-jin, who represents the ruling party on the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor committee.

In a press conference yesterday morning, Cho said the party had made the decision because of fears that mass layoffs were becoming a reality. “If we do nothing about the situation, the problem will become even more serious,” Cho said.

However, lawmaker Kim Jae-yun, who represents the Democrats on the labor committee, rejected any discussions about delaying the statute. “The non-regular worker protection law has already taken effect, so extending the grace period is in violation of the constitution,” Kim said. “We will not participate in any negotiation about a delay. The three political parties’ deal is an illicit collusion.”

A slim chance of striking a deal, however, remained as GNP and DP deputy floor leaders agreed yesterday to hold a bilateral meeting between floor leaders of the two parties over the weekend to discuss the thorny issue.

Wednesday marked the two-year anniversary of the implementation of the non-regular workers’ law, which was intended to protect temporary, part-time and day-wage laborers. Non-regular workers who have worked in their posts for more than two years were to be offered a regular contract. Some companies sacked the vulnerable employees when the grace period ended.

Fearing mass layoffs, the administration and lawmakers tried revising the law throughout June, but some liberal lawmakers and the country’s umbrella labor unions have fiercely rejected a proposed extension of the grace period. The unionists argue that non-regular workers should be offered upgraded contracts as intended by the law, but companies, including state-run corporations, already began sacking the employees, starting on Tuesday.

Frustrated with the current stalemate, President Lee Myung-bak yesterday urged the National Assembly to act swiftly.

In a meeting with the country’s economic officials and leaders of the business community, Lee said the legislature’s inaction has harmed non-regular workers.

“The businessmen probably feel frustrated as well,” Lee said. “When the law was first legislated, it failed to provide a fundamental resolution. While some were rescued, most of the non-regular workers are suffering now.”

Lee said the National Assembly should extend the grace period to buy time and come up with a fundamental resolution. “Delaying the implementation is not a way to completely fix the problem. The key is employment flexibility and we need a comprehensive measure,” he said.

While urging the National Assembly to act as soon as possible, Lee also said the business community should help support vulnerable workers. “This is a difficult time, and we should pay more attention to people suffering the most,” Lee said. “Including investment, that is a company’s mission and social responsibility.”

The nation’s five business lobbies also held a press conference yesterday and urged the legislature to resolve the deadlock as soon as possible.

“When the law was first established, the business community repeatedly warned about the possibility of mass layoffs, but our concerns were completely ignored,” said Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Only politicians and labor unions, not the business community, were involved in the negotiations, which has made the problem more difficult to solve. The negotiations are meaningless if employers are excluded, and that practice should stop immediately.”

Sohn said the business community will protect non-regular workers as much as possible within the legal system. “The key to this problem was prompted by providing unnecessarily extensive protection to regular workers. Therefore, we should resolve discrimination against non-regular workers and heighten the flexibility of their employment.”

Sohn said scrapping the two-year limit on hiring non-regular workers will be the fundamental resolution to the current situation, but added that the business community does not oppose extending the grace period.

The press conference was attended by heads of the five business lobbies including Sohn plus leaders of the Federation of Korean Industries, Korea International Trade Association, Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business and Korea Employers Federation.

While it was unclear how many non-regular workers have been laid off in the private sector so far, hundreds who have worked at governmental enterprises have been let go, according to a GNP lawmaker.

Representative Kim Sung-tae said he surveyed 28 governmental companies under the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs on Wednesday and yesterday, the first two days of the non-regular worker statute implementation. “Of the 1,361 non-regular workers, 240 have already lost their jobs,” Kim said. Another 1,042 are expected to be laid off by the end of this year, he said.

“Even in the public service industry, non-regular workers are being laid off, so I don’t even need to say what’s going on in the private sector,” Kim said. “Instead of discussing a stop-gap delay measure, the National Assembly must discuss a way to end discrimination against non-regular workers or restrict companies from offering non-regular contracts.”



By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]





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