[EDITORIALS]Slow down on tempsThe special committee on irregular worker policy of the Korean Tripartite Commission has submitted a proposal to give the right of collective bargaining to such workers, who include insurance sellers, golf caddies, private lesson instructors and concrete truck drivers. The proposal includes provisions to ban discrimination against such workers at all workplaces.
The increase in number of irregular workers is the product of the upheaval caused by the financial crisis in 1997; their situation has become a serious social problem. It is estimated that there are over 500,000 such workers and that more than half of the Korean work force is made up of irregulars. Saying they are seriously disadvantaged in wages and employment benefits, these irregular workers have been demanding that basic labor rights given to regular workers under the law be applied to them.
Because there are many irregular jobs, it is difficult to regulate them collectively. Golf caddies, for example, are really employees but are not given legal protection. Concrete truck operators are categorized somewhere between sole proprietors and employed workers. It it necessary to clarify their status. Society must now pay attention to these neglected workers. We saw what indifference could lead to during the recent job action by truckers. But the whole burden cannot be put on employers. “Equal pay for equal work” is not an acceptable proposition when one considers the differences in job skills. These are hard times for businesses. To advocate another pro-labor policy now could cause businesses to close their doors or to replace human labor with machines if labor costs increased. That would hardly help laborers.
Unions have vowed to root out all discrimination against irregular workers so there is a high possibility that the proposal of the Tripartite Commission could become the seed of a serious labor-management dispute.
With the economy in a serious condition, the commission and the labor unions should know that this is not the time to stir up seeds of contention, but to find a way to survive together.