[EDITORIALS]Workers are waking upThis year’s labor movement is showing signs of a significant shift. Workers at some businesses are refusing to go along with the large labor unions. In Tuesday’s subway strike in Busan, less than 10 percent of the unionized workers walked off the job. And none of the train drivers, the core force in a strike, walked out. Consequently, the union leadership was compelled to compromise and negotiate just after one day. The reason cited for the drivers non-participation was resistance to the leadership’s politically-cast call to arms. On the same day in Daegu, the subway strike was nipped in the bud when citizens turned against the subway workers, shaking the union’s belief in its action.
We have caught a glimpse of similar changes under way at some 100 businesses, including Hyundai Motors Co., that fall under the umbrella labor group, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Only 54 percent of Hyundai Motors workers voted to strike, the lowest portion in its history.
These changes are a fortunate development. The labor unions at large conglomerates and the labor umbrella groups of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Federation of the Korean Trade Unions went too far pushing for a five-day workweek and union participation in management. With no regard for the economy, they attempted to reap gains by taking advantage of the pro-labor administration. The labor unions at the nation’s conglomerates will found it hard to shake off criticism of acting irresponsibly, with their wages higher than that at small-and medium-sized companies.
Korea’s economic growth this year is expected to fall short of the 4 percent level the government predicted.
The government has moved to deal sternly with “ill-justified politically-driven strikes.” They have finally gotten it right. We urge labor unions to face the dire reality of our economy and quit the political struggle. That is the way to maintain morality in the labor movement while being socially responsible. Should they ignore the need of these times, they will face isolation by their members and the public.