[EDITORIALS]Labor needs a new game planKim Dae-hwan, the minister of labor, told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that the crisis in the labor community has been coming from inside, not outside.
Mr. Kim was urging radical labor groups like the hard-line Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to embrace the changes of our time. In the past, labor unions were considered the underdog. The public has been sympathetic with the struggles of labor unions because their fights were considered a means of survival.
But the conditions are different now. It no longer makes sense that employers are exploiters and struggles are the only way to escape from exploitation. Today, labor unions of large companies are instead criticized for abusing their power.
And yet some labor unions still stage strikes habitually, and the people have criticized such practices fiercely. That is why Mr. Kim urged the labor unions to break away from their old thinking that negotiations are struggles and why he said the unions were facing a crisis from within.
The labor community must take Mr. Kim’s advice seriously. The unions will no longer earn support by hanging on to strikes as their main weapon. They will see more losses than gains by keeping their old practices.
The employers must not forget that transparent management and satisfying their employees are the fundamental strategy to prevent hard-line struggles by labor unions. A company that cannot satisfy its employees cannot satisfy its customers.
The government should also enforce laws strictly to become an effective mediator.
Following such ideas, the trilateral commission, composed of the heads of labor community, business groups and the government, was organized to find a compromise point to improve the future of Korea’s economy and the lives of its members.
But the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has been reluctant to join the commission. That is a sign that the union is giving up its proper role. The umbrella union must mend its internal ruptures and participate in the work of the commission as soon as possible. Unless labor-management relations can be stabilized, Korea’s economy has no future.
The members of labor unions then will lose hope, and there will be no reason for the unions to exist. The labor unions must remember that.