[EDITORIALS]2 unions, many worriesWhen the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions launched a union for civil servants Saturday, the move created two illegal unions for public servants, including an alliance established by the Federation of Korean Trade Unions on March 16. We do not object to the founding of unions for public servants. Nevertheless, the sudden creation of the two unions poses a problem of timing. The fact that both were illegally established by public servants, who should be examples of upholding the law, makes it difficult to draw public support for their establishment.
In line with an agreement it made in 1998, the government has been trying to establish a legal framework for a union for public servants by the end of this year. But negotiations were in a stalemate due to problems ranging from the name of the union and the scope of membership, to the timing of the establishment. The government has taken the following stance on the issue: It will not permit the use of the word "union," the right to take collective action will not be granted, and only public servants below grade six will be allowed membership. In addition, the government opted for a three-year trial period. Nevertheless, the unions wanted a legal base established this year, and official recognition the very next year. The debate was mainly focused on the issue of not allowing full labor rights to the new unions because of the special status of its members as public servants.
In our view, the arguments of the government are logical. The public is worried that the establishment of the two unions comes at a bad time. The upcoming World Cup and the presidential election surely require a solid performance by our public servants. To think the unions might be entangled in labor activities gives legitimate reasons for concern, while the existence of not one but two makes the problem even worse. In addition, the call for the collective action right, such as a strike, only granted in France, is another reason for concern. Both sides should come up with a realistic solution to the timing and the scope of rights allowed to the two organizations. True public servants should not become a source of public worry.