[EDITORIALS]The hospital strikeLabor unions at 98 hospitals whose workers belong to the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union went out on strike yesterday. A skeleton work force was available in emergency, operating and critical care facilities, but consultations and hospital treatment are affected and patients and their families are suffering an inconvenience. It is regrettable that management and labor have not reached an agreement.
The issues include a 10.7-percent wage increase, the legal minimum wage system and the abolition of temporary jobs. But the main issue is the five-day workweek. Labor is demanding a straight five-day week, eight hours a day, while management wants them to work 40 hours a week over six days. Ultimately, the point is whether to make Saturday a non-working day.
The new law requires that, but hospitals could be considered a special case. If hospitals introduce a five-day workweek, management would be pressed to hire more workers and pay weekend allowances. On top of everything else, most medical institutions are struggling because of the economic situation. It would be better to introduce the five-day workweek step by step.
The government cannot be free from responsibility for the strike at the hospitals. It made companies introduce the five-day workweek system on the basis of size, not considering the characteristics of each business.
The result of the negotiation at hospitals will have a big effect on the other collective wage negotiations that start this month. The National Railway Trade Union Solidarity, including unions of the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corp. and the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp., is demanding that companies hire 7,224 more workers and keep the same working conditions despite the shorter hours. Because of the tension, a great transportation disturbance is expected next month.
The management and labor at hospitals should take a step backward. They should agree on the six-day, 40 hour workweek and look for ways to improve working conditions and wages, to keep a fair relationship with the conditions of workers in other industries.
We hope the representatives of labor unions will make a prompt decision.