[EDITORIALS]Workweek woes

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[EDITORIALS]Workweek woes

It is regrettable that the negotiations of the Korea Tripartite Commission to introduce the five-day workweek have finally broken down after two years of deliberations. We can blame it on the economic environment and that labor and management are not yet mature enough. Or perhaps the failure shows that labor and management don't trust each other enough to work out a compromise or know their limits of bargaining capabilities. The commission revealed many problems in its discussions about the ways to reduce work hours. The commission should give up trying to draw a unanimous agreement among participants for every single issue, which only brought about unnecessary ill effects. From now on it should try to sort out principles into which a national consensus can converge.

Because the government decided to independently introduce the bill of a five-day workweek, that bill will be dealt with at the fall regular session of the National Assembly. The government should include in its writing of the bill what the commission had already agreed upon, including a way to make up for wage losses to be incurred from introducing the five-day workweek. The government also has to sort out the holiday and vacation systems to make them compatible with international standards.

Because the commission failed to comprehensively introduce the five-day workweek, many companies already started collective bargaining between labor and management to individually introduce it. The concern was that labor conditions would be widened among companies if better companies start introducing a transformed five-day workweek by changing yearly and monthly holiday systems while keeping the 44 work-hours per week.

Few would deny that the five-day workweek is the future. Nevertheless there is no reason to introduce it within this government no matter what. In particular, small and medium size companies feel it is difficult to meet a 44 work-hour week. Thus, it is hard to push them to take the five-day workweek now. The best option is to allow companies to introduce the five-day workweek when they wish, while shaping up the related laws and institutions.
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