[EDITORIALS]Subway strike is irresponsibleIt is indiscreet of the subway labor unions in four cities across Korea to be going on strike, demanding wage increases and the employment of additional personnel for the implementation of the five-day workweek. If more personnel aren’t hired, everyone’s workload increases; the concern over this problem is understandable. Nevertheless, to go on strike knowing that citizens will suffer is a pure act of collective selfishness. It is an illegal strike, as the union has rejected mediation by the labor relations commission. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has announced that it will join in the strike in a show of solidarity. This means that they will not abide by the law and will push their demands by force.
Looking at the unions’ demands, it’s hard to find a mature attitude to share the pain with the citizens. In the case of the Seoul subway union, weekly working hours have been reduced to 40 hours from 44. This suggests that a 10-percent increase in personnel is needed to operate the subway system. But the labor union demands a 30-percent increase in personnel, and a wage increase of 10.5 percent.
To meet the union’s demands, the government would need an additional 150 billion won ($130 million), which simply is not feasible. The subway has accumulated 5 trillion won in debt, and needs to spend 2.5 trillion won by 2007 to improve its safety.
Under such circumstances, if these demands by the union are met, it is the people who will shoulder the burden, through taxes. Another labor union demands a personnel increase of 48 percent, which is difficult to understand. Management and the unions need to work out a compromise by agreeing on a work schedule that would have fewer personnel manning the stations in the late hours.
That the union of LG Caltex, whose employees have the highest salaries in the manufacturing industry, has refused mediation by the government and gone on strike is also irresponsible. Workplaces that have been designated essential to the public interest because of their effect on the national economy are supposed to accept government meditation. How can such places be at the forefront of illegal strikes, shaking the economy and inflicting pain on the people? The worse the economy gets, the more refined action is required from both management and labor. The union should think more about the people and the economy than about itself.