[EDITORIAL] Use the Labor Moratorium

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[EDITORIAL] Use the Labor Moratorium

The labor-management agreement on two contentious points - a ban on paying wages to fulltime union leaders and the acceptance of multiple labor unions in one workplace - seems to have provided an opportunity for labor stability. The representatives of a tripartite commission of labor, management and government agreed to a five-year moratorium on a law, originally scheduled to take effect in 2002, stipulating the above two rules. Although National Assembly approval is required and the Korean Confederation of Trade Union refuses to comply, the general view is that the law will be amended according to the agreement. Some say critically that there still remains the thorny issue of slashing work hours and that postponing the settlement of the two most difficult issues does not constitute a fundamental resolution, only a stopgap measure.

Even if we recognize these problems, we note that labor and management have earned five years. The economy is on a steady downward spiral, and the general public's anxiety and hardship are deepening day by day. If the two sides distrust the other and make labor dispute a rule, the nation's future will be indeed grim. Now that we are in a crisis that calls for cooperation between labor and management, we believe the agreement was an unavoidable choice. Of course, it does not guarantee stability. In the process of restructuring, industrial labor unions are likely to go on strikes and, in such a situation, the hard-earned agreement is liable to be ignored. What is important, though, is for labor and management to have realized that if each takes a step back, it is not difficult to find common ground, which is of primary importance for labor peace.

Since paying wages to fulltime union leaders and allowing multiple unions do not warrant radical confrontations so long as trust exists between the two sides, high on the agenda is building trust for the next five years. To this end, it is necessary to institute transparent corporate management and the fair principle of distributing profits. In addition, the two sides should discuss seriously the form of a labor organization suitable for South Korea and the ways to ensure effective collective negotiations while guaranteeing workers' right of organization. If they make the most of the five years, the agreement does not have to remain a temporizing step.
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