[EDITORIALS]Non-binding but importantThe Grand National Party is trying to pass a resolution in the National Assembly to urge unions to refrain from strikes. The resolution recommends that unions and management cooperate to call off or refrain from walkouts for a year in order to resolve the economic crisis, the most urgent problem facing the nation. Even if the resolution is passed, it cannot prohibit walkouts or force unions to accept a no-strike policy. But it is our politicians’ duty to create a national consensus to discourage labor strikes and provide an opportunity to overcome the economic crisis.
Labor issues should not be made political matters. Many people are already worried about the serious labor disputes here; according to a survey by Gallup Korea, four out of five Koreans think the current level of labor conflict is serious and strikes should be restrained. The survey results reflect the realization that chronic labor-management conflict is one of the prime reasons for the plunging economy.
According to research by the Korea Productivity Center, wages rose by 11 percent but the labor productivity increased only 3 percent last year. Hyundai-Kia Motors has been on strike for over a month now. Overseas assembly lines have stopped, and the company is at risk of losing production and sales platforms abroad. The rivalry between the two main umbrella labor organizations has shut down some firms; 30 percent of the factories in the Banwon-Sihwa Industrial Complex have relocated to China. Some foreign investors say they regret their decision to come into Korea.
Companies lose from closed factories, but the real victims are workers. College students seem to be the most averse to labor conflict because of the rising unemployment rate and terrible job market.
Even President Roh Moo-hyun said he is concerned about strikes as a show of power before negotiations begin. Now the administration must put its words into action and control labor conflicts. The ruling party should accept the opposition resolution. We want to finally see politicians putting some effort into stabilizing Koreans’ livelihood.