[EDITORIALS]Law and principle on laborOne of the major destabilizing factors of the Korean economy, driving people to a crisis psychology, is the strengthening of hard-line labor by the pro-labor policy of the new government. The JoongAng Ilbo’s recent serialized report was planned because of worries over growing labor militancy and was intended to propose a balanced labor policy based on law and principles.
Ending the series, we interviewed the labor minister. He posed a question: “What did the Korea Cargo Transportation Workers Union do wrong?” He answered himself: “Even when their action is illegal, if their demands are just, they must be heeded.” He continued that his ministry must speak for labor. “Businessmen,” he said, “should not criticize the government for not handling labor according to the law while they do not manage businesses transparently.” This is the reason participants at a breakfast meeting with him complained about him.
The truckers strike was an example that demonstrated how social chaos is created when principles are not kept. Accepting the demands of the truckers is one thing and penalizing illegal sabotage of truck drivers was another. It is not clear whether the minister mentioned transparent management to suggest that violations of law by both labor and management must be overlooked because management committed misdeeds.
As was seen in the strikes at Korea Rail and Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, negotiation victories by labor raise its expectations and create obstacles to future negotiations. With such an unbalanced labor policy, how can we create the economic hub of Northeast Asia? Can we establish labor-management relations that are conducive to social integration through dialogue and negotiations?
In comparison with global standards, Korea’s labor laws and practices are not up to the mark. We must improve our system relentlessly. But the government must implement existing laws and practices until they are changed. Starting with maintaining current law and principles, the government must establish a balanced labor policy.