[EDITORIALS]Common sense on laborPresident-elect Roh Moo-hyun made an important statement on labor issues yesterday. Stressing the need for a more flexible labor market during his address at a breakfast gathering of foreign businessmen, Mr. Roh said that he would try to give businesses more freedom to lay off workers. He also said his administration would try to solve labor issues "reasonably and in accordance with law and principles."
Concerns have grown among foreign and domestic businesses about Mr. Roh's labor policy. Leading employers' groups have blamed the president-elect's transition team as being biased in favor of labor unions. Foreign investors also complained. Employers' anxieties grew as Mr. Roh's transition committee proposed scrapping discrimination against part-time workers, calling for "equal wages for equal labor."
Mr. Roh said, "Militant labor struggles usually take place at big businesses rather than at smaller firms. I will change the training and re-employment system so that workers can find new jobs more easily and employers have more freedom in laying off employees." It appears that his approach to labor issues is changing to a more realistic position than many have feared.
Now that the president-elect has laid out the framework of his labor policies, which will undoubtedly be a mine field for the new administration, his team should draw up detailed measures to ensure that the law and Mr. Roh's enunciated principles are followed strictly. In particular, the proposal to give more rights to part-time workers should be implemented "at a speed and breadth that reality can bear," as Mr. Roh said.
The government should also try to abolish unrealistic regulations to protect employees' rights, which are among the most stringent in the world. Workers should be aware that those regulations are one of the reasons that employers have turned to part-time workers. Labor-management issues are one of the major problems facing Korea, and will have a crucial influence on our country's international competitiveness and even survival.
We want the new administration to develop a new labor system that meets international standards and leads to labor peace.