[EDITORIALS]5-day work bill is urgent

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[EDITORIALS]5-day work bill is urgent

The five-day workweek to be introduced at Hyundai Motor Co. in September will increase the number of non-work days at the firm to between 165 and 177 per year. That figure far exceeds the number of days away from work sites in the United States and Japan; Hyundai’s labor and management agreed to keep all existing vacation days and monthly days off. The settlement has added more fuel to the debate on a national five-day workweek.
Separate industry-level negotiations led by the Korea Metal Worker’s Federation resulted in an accord on a 40-hour workweek as well, and labor has made the issue its top priority in this year’s negotiations. The Hyundai settlement was in line with the earlier settlement. If a five-day workweek spreads to other industries even before the National Assembly enacts a national standard, annual and monthly leave and compensation for unused menstrual leave will still be in force; there will be no offset for the shorter workweek.
A reduction in hours at the same wages means an increase in production costs. Of course the 40-hour week is already a global trend that cannot be ignored, but dropping Saturday work without reducing other holidays would give Korean workers more time off than their counterparts in other developed countries. International competitiveness cannot be maintained if workers are on the job only half the year.
The government proposal, which is an amalgam of proposals by labor organizations and businesses, is before the National Assembly. Business likes it; labor does not, because it cuts back on holidays, and labor has already proposed a more generous alternative.
There is no time to spare in introducing a five-day workweek. The issue should not be left to individual collective bargaining. A five-day workweek should be adopted, but there must be concurrence on how to improve our competitiveness. Political circles should show their skill in compromise to mediate the disputes between the differing interests involved.
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