[EDITORIALS]New unions are bad news

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[EDITORIALS]New unions are bad news

A civil service union was launched on Saturday in a surprise move by the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, but the establishment of the new union seems to lack legitimacy, good timing and support from the people.

First, since there is no legal basis for civil service unions, the new group is illegal. It is true that the creation of such a union was one of president Kim Dae-jung's election slogans, and after his administration took office, numerous round table conferences and negotiations were held to discuss the details of such a union. Last month, the government submitted a proposal that it would accept a union for public servants after 2006 and give it limited bargaining rights. Unions countered the proposal by demanding that the right to take collective action, including strikes, should be granted as well, so negotiations were stalemated. But that is not a good excuse for a wildcat union to be launched by a federation of unions before the law is changed and before agreements have been struck. That goes against the spirit of public service; government workers are supposed to be a measuring stick of respect for the law and upholding it.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the other national umbrella organization, also plans to launch a union for civil servants on March 24, so now we will have two illegal unions. If they call a general strike like private-sector unions have done, the repercussions will be severe.

And the timing is counterproductive, at a time when our society is trying to recover from the recent strike of railroad and electricity unions. If the moves are based on cheap calculations that now is a good time to take advantage of a lame-duck government and the upcoming World Cup and elections, their actions deserve even more criticism. The people do not blindly oppose a union for civil servants. Now is just not the right time, and trying to establish one or more illegally is certainly not the right way to do it either. We strongly recommend that the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions go back to the negotiating table first, and get the understanding and support of the people.
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