[EDITORIALS]Punish the illegal strikersThe Korean Government Employees’ Union went on a general strike yesterday, but despite the assertion by the union leadership that the majority of members would join, the participation level in the strike was very low. And a vacuum in administrative work and civil affairs duties did not occur as had been feared. Some local governments’ union branches declared they would give up the strike and return to work. The unprecedented illegal strike, which is a violation of the law that forbids collective action by civil servants, has failed.
First, the union must voluntarily end its strike, which has largely been ignored by civil servants. Also, now that the strike has failed, it is only right that the union give up its demand for the right to strike, which was the rationale for the strike. The union must come to terms with the fact that most union members did not follow through with the leadership’s decision for an all-out strike. Even if they were members of the union, they were hesitant to partake in collective action like other workers. In this respect, we can be assured that the majority of the union members are thinking straight. It is the leadership that cries out, “We will fight to the last.” We must respond to them differently than ordinary members.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, 3,200 government workers participated in yesterday’s strike attempt. The union asserts that 44,300 participated. The government’s stance is that all public officials who participated in the strike will be demoted or fired and will not be reinstated. It is only reasonable that the participants in the strike receive heavy punishment because they have caused confusion in the national order. Light punishment of strike participants and allowing them to return to work must not be allowed. The government must not repeat the mistake of allowing members of the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union who were fired, to return to the workplace all at once, becoming some kind of activist “heroes.”
If the local governments, who must carry out the punishments of the strikers, act passively, the central government must mobilize all possible means to make sure that law and order prevails. The people will watch closely whether the government will deal with the general strike by the public officials’ union by taking them all to court and standing by the principle of heavy punishment to strike participants.