[EDITORIALS]Unions should act responsibly

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[EDITORIALS]Unions should act responsibly

Korea’s strike season is beginning to hit full-scale. Strikes by medical workers have gone on for over a week and members of the taxi drivers and metal workers’ unions began their own strikes yesterday. With issues like the five-day workweek and improved conditions for temporary workers up for discussion, negotiations are expected to be rough.
People looking at the hospital strikes are extremely worried. Management officials have said they would accept the shorter workweek on the condition that hospitals are allowed to independently choose when to put it into effect. But the union wants the simultaneous introduction of the five-day workweek at all hospitals nationwide. Union members have also opposed management’s proposal to reduce the number of days allotted for monthly and yearly leaves while eliminating the menstrual leave in exchange for the new work schedule.
Both sides should consider the uniqueness of hospitals and seek a quick end to negotiations. At hospitals these days, the number of surgical procedures has fallen, doctors are being forced to push patients’ wheelchairs and administrative clerks can be seen carrying around charts due to the lack of manpower that the strikes have brought. If the situation worsens to the point that doctors start having to give up on lives that can be saved, who will take responsibility?
Both parties must consider that hospital revenue will drop while personnel costs will rise if the union’s plans are accepted. Considering that 10 percent of hospitals nationwide go out of business each year, labor’s requests will only worsen the situation. Health insurance costs also will rise.
The government must also strongly respond to the strike by taxi drivers. Union members are saying that the decision in 1995 to cut the value-added tax by half to improve their welfare has not been operating correctly. The first step to a solution is regulation reform and thorough supervision by the government.
Strikes by subway and railway workers and Hyundai Motors’ labor union are set to take place later this month. With the domestic economic situation as difficult as it is, we ask that they refrain from violent actions and excessive requests that might have a negative effect on Korea’s credit standing.
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