[EDITORIALS]'No' to civil service unions

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[EDITORIALS]'No' to civil service unions

A subcommittee assigned to deal with the basic labor rights of civil servants by the Tripartite Commission of Labor, Management and the Government has reportedly agreed to recommend that civil servants be given the right to organize and bargain collectively. The only disagreement is that labor is also asking for the right to conclude collective labor agreements, while the government opposes that measure on the grounds that it can infringe on the National Assembly's powers of legislation and review of the government budget.

Controversy over allowing unions of civil servants is not a new issue. Labor has consistently pushed for unionized civil servants, saying that Korea is the only member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that does not recognize civil service unions. The International Labor Organization has also pressed Seoul to give civil servants organizing rights. But even in Japan, such unions are workplace councils.

Then what is the reality facing us? Next year we will hold local and presidential elections, not to mention the 2002 World Cup games. With the world economy in a trough, the economic forecast for Korea is not very rosy. The most urgent task for us is to successfully stage these major events next year. Korean workers are known to be bold; they swiftly take to the streets with red headbands to rally for their group interests. One good example was the confusion caused in some schools when the Korea Teachers' and Educational Workers' Union abandoned their classes several hours early to protest merit-based bonuses for teachers. If civil servants take the same tack, we cannot rule out mass confusion in government affairs. We should discuss unionizing the civil service when our labor environment reaches a higher level.

The unionization of civil servants is not a matter to be pursued hurriedly, but the tripartite commission insists that if it succeeds in pushing its proposal through the standing committee and a plenary session of the commission, it will propose a bill to give organizing rights to civil servants to the special National Assembly session in February. The commission should hold more public hearings and listen to other opinions. This is not the time for unionization; it is a time to restructure the bureaucratic system to enhance its competitiveness.
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