[EDITORIALS]Labor strife is destructiveLabor’s summer strife has begun in earnest. The general strike by the Korean Confederation of Trade Union was joined by four unions under the metal union including Hyundai Motor, as well as those from the services and chemical textiles sectors. Financial unions are also intervening in the strike at KorAm Bank, increasing the level of tension between labor and management.
The most distressing thing is that the automobile industry, which is an important part of the Korean economy, is being dragged into the whirlpool of summer strife. Automotive labor unions have conducted strikes every year since 1987 and this has resulted in massive losses to auto parts manufacturers and the national economy as a whole. In the case of Daewoo Incheon Motors, which has a plant in Bupyeong, workers walked off for two hours despite GM Daewoo’s warnings that it would not buy the company if there was a strike. The union had followed the guidelines of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions for a general strike. If this continues, we may go on missing opportunities to increase our technological competitiveness and join the upper ranks of global brands.
Meanwhile, General Motors in the United States and Toyota in Japan have been growing rapidly by constructing collaborative relationships between labor and management. In 1998, GM gave up its lead in terms of U.S. market share to Ford after enduring a strike of 54 days. The company took this as a lesson, and faithfully provided its workers with managerial information. Employees also learned the meaning of coexistence and that “if there is no company, there is no labor union.” That was the last strike at GM.
Toyota Motors made 11 trillion won ($9.6 billion) in profits last year, but to catch up with GM, its union agreed to a three-year wage freeze.
Labor leaders must change their attitudes. It was wrong for the umbrela trade unions to include the withdrawal of Korean troops from Iraq as one of their demands. That has nothing to do with working conditions. Management should inform workers on company’s situation and make efforts to cooperate. Developed countries have abandoned antagonistic labor-management relationships. More strife will lead to our destruction.