[EDITORIALS]A strike now is folly

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[EDITORIALS]A strike now is folly

Just a month after a round of general strikes in late February, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is attempting to stage another walkout to protest the government's reaction to a strike by power plant workers. If the "spring struggle" becomes an annual event and takes an increasingly hard-line course, it will undermine relationships between government, business and labor and disturb law and order.

Nobody would object to union actions if they made fair demands in proper ways. But the planned sympathy strike by the umbrella union to support striking power workers is a totally different matter. Power unions have already won what they want, including the number of full-time union officials, through arbitration by the National Labor Relations Commission. Still, thousands of power union members are continuing their work stoppage, causing grave problems in our power supply, which has a direct impact on people's lives. If the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions goes on a nationwide strike to help them, that would mean the addition of one more illegal walkout. The planned privatization of the power industry has been decided and implemented. Attempts to scrap it are an attack on social decision-making.

A nationwide work stoppage could deal a significant blow to the economy, which has managed to keep growing backed by domestic consumption. It is expected to get a long-awaited boost from exports, which are now starting to recover. At a time when the country's sovereign debt rating has recovered to grade A for the first time since the Asian economic crisis, a general strike would not help anyone.

Also, considering a series of events of national significance, including the World Cup soccer games in May and June and the presidential election in December, this is not a good time for a labor struggle. If workers go on strikes as they wish in spite of important international sports events to be held here, particularly with labor already labeled as militant by international business, Korea's international credibility would be threatened.

Of course, the government is partly responsible for the stalemate between labor and management. As the Korean Tripartite Commission tried to find political solutions to labor disputes, laws and principles of the government's labor policy were often neglected, and new policy guidelines were adopted slowly. Particularly at many state-run corporations, management has always turned its face away from unions and stayed away from the negotiating table. Once unions go on strikes, management resorts to the government's hard-line measures. The government should hold those corporate managers responsible for neglecting their duties.

It is unprecedented in other countries that power workers would desert their jobs for more than one month. Although the government promises to provide electricity without disruption, a perilous emergency situation continues every day. Power workers should quickly end their walkouts and return to work, rather than being driven by hard-line leadership from upper-level labor organizations. It is not too late for them to return to the negotiating table.

The government forecast that the planned nationwide strike would be limited to sporadic work stoppages because it believes that unions under the umbrella organization are not very united. Regardless of whether the walkout will be sporadic or partial, an illegal strike is illegal, and the union confederation should call off its plans. For a labor group to support an illegal strike would work to the detriment of power workers rather than helping solve the crisis. We urge the leadership of the confederation to think twice about a general strike.
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