[EDITORIALS]No managing role for laborLee Joung-woo, director general for policy planning at the Blue House, startled business circles by speaking of allowing labor unions to have a limited right to participate in management decisions. It is unreasonable for a senior Blue House official to speak of giving unions the right to intervene in management when the nation is suffering from an economic slowdown and militant labor action. Mr. Lee’s remark is untimely and unrealistic.
Korea’s economic slowdown is at its worst. There are no signs of revival in investment or consumption, despite the government’s economic stimulus package. Foreign direct investment in Korea has dropped to half its level last year. Korean firms are also looking outside the country for investment, as the business environment here is losing its appeal. The group tyranny of labor unions and the government’s failure to handle labor action firmly are driving away corporate investment. Militant labor actions are impairing Korea’s economic foundation.
Allowing the unions to share management information could strengthen managerial transparency. There are businesses that do seek the counsel of their unions in making business moves. But it is up to individual businesses to determine the degree of union participation, rather than the government to determine it. The idea of union intervention in management lacks due consideration of Korea’s reality.
The Blue House proposed the Dutch model of business-labor collaboration as an ideal. But such collaboration is possible in advanced nations, where the labor market is flexible and the union and management are ready to talk. Korea, where antagonistic labor-management relationships prevail, is not ready to adopt such a system.
The government is reportedly drawing up policies on labor-management relations. It should not even think about adopting a careless experiment that will turn away investors and deal a serious blow to the economy. Labor-management relations should abide by laws and principles ― above all, market principles. The goal of government policy must be to stimulate the economy and create jobs.
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