[EDITORIALS]One union comes to its senses

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[EDITORIALS]One union comes to its senses

The labor union of Hyundai Heavy Industries was kicked out of the Korea Metal Workers’ Federation under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions yesterday. The stated reason was that the Hyundai union had not coped properly with the incident early this year when a worker of a Hyundai subcontractors burned himself to death, demanding an end to discrimination against non-regular workers.
The metal workers’ union criticized the union, saying it did not honor the man and damaged the spirit of labor movements. The expulsion of the “Mecca of the Korean labor movement” in the 1980s and 1990s from the group is a real shock.
The expulsion shows that the strong political influence of the umbrella union has reached its limits. The metal workers’ union wanted to use the suicide as a way to strengthen the labor movement, while the Hyundai union offered a reasonable plan that both management and labor could live with, instead of complying with the metal union’s wishes.
The labor movement should end its use of violent political strikes which do not consider the future of companies, the economy and the nation. Union’s insistence on the old ways is an anachronism; foreign investors shun Korea because of the violent labor movement and the number of jobs is dropping as domestic companies leave.
The change of attitude by the labor union at Hyundai Heavy Industries came at a high cost. One of the stellar companies here, its credit rating and production had dropped because it was busy with annual fights fought for the umbrella union.
It is no coincidence that the Hyundai union refused the orders of the confederation, demanded the smallest wage increase among the unions of conglomerates this year, and did not raise demands for participation in management.
“The rival of Korean labor unions is not management but Chinese workers,” said Lee Hwa-soo, the head of the Gyeonggi province chapter of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, which joined a program to woo foreign investors with Sohn Hak-kyu, the governor of Gyeonggi province.
It is a pity that there is still a group that denies practicality and rationality even though the world is changing. Labor unions should take the attitude that they can yield and cooperate somewhat for national competitiveness and job increases.
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