[ROSTRUM]Limit rights of public servantsControversy over public officials' right of organization is heating up in the National Assembly and among the public. The main argument is whether the term "labor union" should be adopted and to what extent the rights of labor should be exercised. The timing of the approval of these rights is also a subject of debate.
The government seems to disapprove of adopting the phrase "labor union" because the term is too progressive for public servants. It is more practical not to be obsessed with the word because the true nature of union does not disappear. Japan, for example, uses "workers group."
The administration approves of labor rights to a certain extent. Public officials will have the right of collective bargaining and the right of organization. However, the right of collective action and collective agreement, which officials strongly insist on, should not be granted.
Government officials should bear in mind that their working environment is different from that of private companies, which means their right of collective agreement should be different as well.
Other nations basically do not fully approve of the three labor rights for public servants. Some of them even prohibit officials from organizing collective action.
The International Labor Organization says government officials should be restricted in their exercise of workers' rights.
The Korean Tripartite Commission, formed by labor, management and government, agreed on the same issue －－ to restrict government officials' right of collective action －－ in 1998.
The administration insists on a three-year grace period before the actual implementation of the act granting officials collective rights. Officials claim six months is long enough.
Most people still have problems with public officials going on a strike. Both labor and government should compromise and come to an acceptable agreement. Labor should make every effort to win people's support on this issue. Establishing special committees to monitor government officials' labor activities might be advisable. The Federal Labor Relations Authority in the United States, for example, is a neutral and quasi-judicial organization watching over the activities of labor and government.
Government workers should concentrate on creating a labor-management environment that is not corrupted by politics. It would be better for government officials not to be associated with political labor organizations, like the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and Korean Confedera-tion of Trade Unions.
Public workers should keep in mind that their rights should be achieved through rational and gradual means, and the methods should be applied so that people will not harbor negative feelings against them. Government workers are supposed to serve the people, not claim their rights ahead of those they are supposed to help.
The writer is a professor of public administration at Taegu University.
by Kim Jae-gi