[EDITORIALS]Bad time to convert workersThe government has finally announced plans to address the question of the treatment of non-regular government workers. The announcement had been postponed because of inter-cabinet differences of opinion.
About 31,000 of the 234,000 part-time or temporary workers will be offered permanent positions. Another 65,000 will stay in the same status, but will receive pay increases and better working conditions.
Many non-regular employees work the same hours but receive less money and fewer fringe benefits. Their anger is understandable, and the new plans will indeed help the weaker members of our society. But considering the impact that the plan will have on the private sector, we wonder whether it was really necessary to go ahead with it now.
Companies have few options but to view the government’s move as a form of pressure to follow suit. If labor unions use the public sector as an example, companies will be in a difficult position. Domestic consumption has been sluggish for quite some time and China abruptly announced plans to curb its growth. Oil prices have increased. All those things have not helped our companies. But the government does not seem to be paying attention. Its move will be felt by companies as pressure to follow suit. Labor unions will also press businesses strongly saying, “See what the government did.”
The cost of improving the conditions of irregular workers is a problem. For the next five years, perhaps 160 billion won ($135 million) will be spent to implement the government’s plan. Can we afford to spend our tax money that way?
Changing the status of 863 temporary mailmen to regular workers and raising their wages is another problem. In 1987 in New Zealand, the postal service was converted to a public company. Thirty percent of the work force had to be cut. Only after such drastic measures did the company begin to show healthy profits. This is a time when restructuring should take place, yet we are only making the problem larger.
The conversion of irregular workers to regular worker status is needed. Nevertheless, there will be a better time to do that. For the government, this is the time to create circumstances in which investment is easy and jobs are created.