[EDITORIALS]Labor Must Not Cross the Line

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[EDITORIALS]Labor Must Not Cross the Line

The situation threatens to grow worse on the labor front. Strikes are still going on at Hyosung's Ulsan plant and NCC's chemical plants in Yeocheon, and labor unions at Asiana and Korean airlines and Hotel Riviera have warned of strikes on June 12. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, concentrating all its power to accomplish its key demands, such as abolishing restructuring and layoffs and railroading a bill on 5-day work week in the National Assembly, has claimed June as the month of all-out confrontation. The business community, led by the Federation of Korean Industries and Korea Employer's Federation, has asked the government to strictly control any unlawful actions by labor, hinting a head-on collision with unions. We are raising concerns that an unusual conflict between labor and management will flare up in this summer season.

Labor unions have the right to propose demands and demonstrate their power through normal and lawful means to achieve better working condition and workers' welfare. Workers' discontent over wage cuts and layoffs caused by management's missteps is understandable. However, unlawful actions can never be justified under any circumstance. Public authority should exercise its power to stop such activities as dealing a blow to related industries by halting operations of their plant by carrying out strikes without following appropriate procedures which has taken place at Hyosung recently. Workers should understand that initiating group action because of management decisions, such as corporate mergers, acquisitions and restructuring, is illegal. Negotiations to sell Daewoo Motor Co., a company that has been a millstone for the Korean economy, have started. Under the circumstance, Daewoo's labor union decided to send some of its members to General Motor Corporation's headquarters in the United States to protest the auto giant's plans to buy the bankrupt company. We cannot understand why the workers made such a decision. Unionists should remember that radical actions by some labor unions and unstable labor-management relations in Korea played a decisive role in the sharp erosion of foreign investment this year. Understanding that, unionists should restrain their actions.

Public authorities should never allow unlawful acts. But they should never repeat the violence used against demonstrators at Daewoo Motor's Bupyeong plant. However, they should never ignore violent and unlawful actions of the workers. Labor organizations, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, can not avoid criticism for causing plants to shut down and delaying economic recovery. On the other hand, employers should also abandon the idea that they can depend on public authorities to control labor without putting forth efforts to cooperate with workers.

We are still facing hardships. Exports continue to plunge due to the uncertain outlook of the U.S. economy. It is not difficult to imagine the results of conflicts among the unionists, employers and government and the antagonism they hold for one another. The three parties should reshape their awareness as soon as possible and end the vicious circle of disputes. Furthermore, public authorities should deal with unlawful acts of either side strictly and fairly. It should take stern legal action against employers who abuse employees and customers by using unfair and illegal methods. At the same time, they should severely punish illegal actions by workers and let both sides know that they would lose their benefits for breaking the rules.
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