[EDITORIALS]Workweek bill fork in road

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[EDITORIALS]Workweek bill fork in road

After many negotiations, the government has drafted a revision to the Basic Labor Act to adopt a five-day workweek. The amendment is a product of two years of bargaining among labor, management and government; a compromise on each side's proposals that falls short of being satisfactory to all involved.

The government's bill stipulates that the five-day workweek will be adopted gradually starting next July. Implementation for small businesses with 30 employees or less will be decided by a presidential decree. There will be 15 to 25 annual holidays and monthly menstrual leaves will be unpaid. The volatile issue of making up for the loss of income from switching to unpaid leaves and other changes are to be included in the addendum to the law.

The real problem is how to apply the five-day workweek principle to all businesses, a collection whose size and situations vary. Labor argues that wages and working conditions at small and medium-sized businesses need immediate improvement; however, many of these businesses are losing ground. Improving the quality of life is important, but if the company cannot survive, all other effort is for naught. If the conglomerates adopt the five-day workweek, most of the small and medium-sized businesses that are suppliers to these large companies will be affected in one way or another. Thus, there should be more of an effort to listen to the various voices under the mantle of the principles that were reached in the amendment bill.

There are voices of concern that the government has pushed through the bill in order to appease workers and businesses ahead of the upcoming presidential election. If the government decides to push ahead with the five-day workweek because it was the campaign pledge of President Kim Dae-jung, this would be another example of populist politics.

The matter is now up for National Assembly approval. With partisanship at its sharpest, there are concerns that it will be difficult to introduce the new system within this Assembly session. It is the politician's lot to wisely unweave the web of opinions without threatening labor stability.
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