[EDITORIALS]Labor proposals are positiveThe focus of the Labor Ministry’s blueprint for “modern labor relations” announced yesterday is to strengthen employers’ power against labor unions and to increase the flexibility of the labor market. There is nothing more urgent in this country than to achieve progress in labor relations so that they are more in line with the international norm.
There is no hope for more investment or a greater ability to compete in the world economy while labor relations remain tense and the labor market stays rigid.
The government’s proposal will allow employers to lock out striking workers, whether the walkout is legal or not. Striking workers of organizations that affect the public interest could be replaced by other workers so that damage is kept to a minimum. These are reasonable and necessary powers for employers to have, because large companies are affected by strikes annually.
The proposal also includes aspects to improve labor market flexibility. An employer faced with a difficult financial condition will be able to cut wages and benefits; employees who reject such changes can be subject to dismissal. The proposal also will reduce the length of time required before an employer can begin laying off workers as part of a reorganization. These ideas seem reasonable considering today’s changing industrial structure and business environment.
Labor claims that the proposals unfairly benefit management. But there are aspects that benefit labor, such as requiring formal agreement on job guarantees and abolishing the mandatory mediation process for institutions that critically affect public welfare, such as hospitals. We believe that the proposal will even the balance of power between labor and management.
The proposal faces debate by the tripartite commission on labor, and labor law amendments by the National Assembly. The entire plan could be set aside if the legislature is overpowered by the labor movement and upcoming elections. But labor relations are an issue that directly affects the welfare of the nation, and nothing should come ahead of it for the sake of national interest.