[EDITORIALS]Stay out of labor talksStarting next week, the nation’s labor unions will begin a series of general strikes. Railroad workers unions and subway workers in Daegu, Incheon and Busan will begin job action on June 24; Chohung Bank’s union is scheduled to launch a strike the next day. The Federation of Korean Trade Unions has announced a strike for June 30. Union members at 140 metal manufacturers under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions have threatened to strike on July 2.
The economy is plunging, but workers have vowed to launch strikes. Where is the country going?
This year’s season of strikes is mainly linked to government policy, in contrast with strikes of past years, which were part of wage negotiations. Job security for part-time workers, the five-day workweek, restructuring and the union’s participation in company operations are the issues. With only labor and management negotiating, the issues are difficult to resolve. The unions expect the government to join the talks.
However, we urge the government not to intervene in these disputes and that illegal strikes be dealt with strictly according to the law. Until recently the Roh administration, with its pro-labor policy, directly intervened in labor disputes, heightening unions’ expectations and prompting workers to pursue walkouts even more vigorously.
In the case of Chohung Bank, the Blue House has intervened, and the bank’s union members have filed their resignations with the Blue House. The government’s mishandling of strikes by workers at Doosan Heavy Industries, railroad workers and truck drivers caused this vicious circle.
The government now has decided a Chohung Bank strike would be illegal and warned of serious punishment. That is a signal that the Roh administration’s labor policy is finally settling down.
The threatened strikes tests the Roh administration’s labor policy. Foreign investors are paying attention. The government, unions and employers must devise a solution to prevent relations among them from slowing economic recovery.