[EDITORIALS]5-day week: Let's decideThe proposed introduction of the five-day workweek has become the biggest issue in this year's collective bargaining. The Korea Financial Industry Union said it would make the introduction of a five-day workweek its central demand in upcoming negotiations with banks. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions said a survey of its member unions showed that 42 percent of them listed a 40-hour week in their demands.
An uncoordinated move to a shorter workweek is a cause for concern. The Tripartite Commission on labor issues is still considering the matter, and if it is adopted randomly and under union duress, the upshot will be inconvenience for the public.
One important question is how business will operate efficiently if banks alone move to a five-day workweek. Before banks do so, the public and the business sector must change their banking practices. ATMs and Internet banking have become popular alternatives to visiting a bank branch for smaller transactions, but little has been thought through on how to treat loan repayments and bills coming due on Saturdays.
It is beyond our comprehension why the government decided recently to go ahead with the plan for civil servants. Perhaps the move was intended as a way to encourage progress in Tripartite Commission discussions, but it is dangerous for the government to go first just because it is easy for them to do so. Many businesses have already moved to a five-day workweek, and large conglomerates have been preparing for the change for some time. There is no justification for the commission to keep delaying a decision. No doubt there are issues still to be resolved, but most of the pieces are now in place. The commission is meeting now and should push hard to reach a final decision.
A shorter workweek is the kind of major social decision that once made will be difficult to reverse. It is appropriate for the public and the corporate sector to introduce it gradually, checking progress and minimizing confusion. The form of a five-day workweek should be something that has a productive impact on the economy, not one that lowers competitiveness.