[EDITORIALS]Rein in the unionsRecently, the trend of moral hazard and deviation of labor unions has become outstanding. A union of a petrochemical and refinery industry in Yeocheon Industrial Complex, which gets the highest level of wages, starts a job action today demanding a 10-percent wage increase. It has also been confirmed that the leaders of the Daegu bus union accepted tens of millions of won in bribes in exchange for smooth labor-management negotiations.
The average annual income of a worker with 15 years of experience at the Yeocheon refinery amounts to over 60 million won ($52,000). Despite such high wages, they demand an increase at a much higher rate than the annual price increase, and some unions even ask for sending all its members on overseas training tours. Under the situation where the financial capability of a business is limited, the demands of big unions are endless, and they take job actions to enforce their demands. On the other hand, the situation of small and medium businesses and irregular workers deteriorates day by day. The inappropriate behavior of the Daegu bus union leaders is also horrible. Although they insisted that they received money on such occasions as overseas travel or traditional holidays, following custom, they did not take job action in 2002 and 2003, when they received money.
The unions can draw support and sympathy from society only when they demonstrate strong solidarity and high levels of ethical standards. If a union indulges in vested interests and even engages in a deal with its employer, we cannot but help asking, for what does it exist? Not to mention its social responsibility, it is even questionable whether it has a basic conscience. Even President Roh Moo-hyun criticized the union last year, saying, “I am worried because some labor movements lose ethical grounds and social responsibility.”
If unions reign as if they are the almighty and try to expand their vested interests, the results will be manifest. If wage increases in excess of the increase in productivity is prolonged for some years, the relocation of domestic businesses and departure of foreign invested companies from Korea will grow. According to research of the International Institute of Management Development, the competitiveness of Korea’s labor relations is at the lowest level in the world. We cannot let labor unions that represent only 12 percent of workers drag down the competitiveness of our businesses and the nation.
The government must take firm action to straighten out wrong labor practices.