[EDITORIALS]Strike timing is very badThe labor community is gearing up for the “spring struggle,” the yearly seasonal strife with management and the government. Heralding the spring struggle nationwide is Doosan Heavy Industries, which is engulfed in a two-months-long labor conflict. The Confederation of Korean Trade Unions, an umbrella group, has declared an all-out strike, beginning on March 20 with metal industry workers leading the way. Its counterpart, the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, which is scheduled to hold a labor rally at the end of the month, has signaled that it will join the job action. These moves are worrisome because labor has played its final card, pushing aside dialogue.
The landscape of this year’s labor-management relations is cluttered with potential conflict. The two large umbrella groups are asking for an 11-percent increase in wages; the Korea Employers Federation has offered a 4.3 percent increase.
Due to the sluggish economy, corporations are moving forward with restructuring as issues like the five-day workweek, improving the treatment of temporary workers and permitting a civil servants’ union are being debated. The administration’s labor-management relations will be condemned by management. To be justified strikes should be called in a manner and with timing the public can understand. The social and economic fallout would be heavy if labor launches a general strike under economic uncertainties. The feistiness of Korean labor has been a major hurdle to higher credibility among international investors. The Korean economy is being affected by the North Korean nuclear issue and a looming war in Iraq.
For stable labor-management relations, the new government should hurry to articulate its labor policies, raising the predictability of the labor market. And labor and management should quit the fight and don their thinking caps to figure out what is the best way to strengthen economic competitiveness. Now, it is indeed important for labor, management and the government to cooperate.