[EDITORIALS]Each side must give groundThe strike by workers at five thermoelectric power plants that produce more than 60 percent of the domestic power supply has entered its second week with compromise between labor and management seemingly far off. The government argues that mustering emergency workers will prevent power interruptions for about one month. But how long the crippled operations can go on is difficult to predict.
We believe that labor unions at power utilities should stop the strike and return to the negotiating table. Since the walkout last week at state-run firms, workers and employers at the power plants have made the situation worse, rather than narrowing differences. On Saturday, the two parties did not yield an inch on the issues on privatizing power utilities and reinstating laid-off workers. Whether talks will resume is unclear.
No other industry is as directly connected to people's lives as electric power. Although power plants are operating on two shifts, down from the usual three shifts, this should not be seen as relief, considering that emergency situations, such as malfunctions in power generators, might occur. Power plants are running at full capacity, even over the weekend, when demand for electricity is lower, causing a significant loss of electricity. The plants are dismissing union members who do not follow the companies' order to go back to work, and the government is considering sending in riot police.
As is the case with railroads and gas utilities, plans to privatize the power utilities should not be scrapped. The Supreme Court has clearly ruled that corporate restructuring is not a matter to be discussed in collective bargain agreements and that walkouts opposing the reform efforts are illegal. But there is still room for labor-management discussions.
The strike by power workers should be resolved quickly, considering the losses and the impact on labor and management as well as on the national economy. The best way to solve the issue is for unions to end their walkouts, opening the way for renegotiations. The government should also seek dialogue, in a bid to avoid taking forceful measures to solve the issue.