[EDITORIALS]Labor must share the pain

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[EDITORIALS]Labor must share the pain

Delegates from the International Monetary Fund charged that regular workers in Korea were being overprotected. In order to solve the issue of irregular workers, regular workers need to be protected less, the delegation told the Korean government. They have suggested the best answer to one of the pending problems that Korean society is wrestling with.
The Labor Ministry estimated that the number of irregular workers rose to 5.4 million, taking up 37 percent of all workers, beginning just after the Asian economic crisis in 1998. Labor leaders say the number is much larger, putting the number at 8 million irregular workers, 55 percent of all workers here.
The truth, in either case, is that there are too many irregular workers who have to worry every day about losing their jobs suddenly. Even though their work is virtually the same as that of regular workers, their working conditions are poor and they get paid much less. It is very clear that working conditions for irregular workers have to improve soon.
But solving this problem will carry a tremendous cost. According to an irregular workers bill introduced to the National Assembly, those who have been employed for three continuous years have to be converted to regular workers. This means corporations will have to spend 3.5 trillion won ($32.8 billion) more annually on additional wages.
If all irregular workers got the same wage as regular workers, corporations would need 26 trillion won. How many businesses in Korea can handle that much spending?
We should approach the issue of irregular workers from its core. We need to think about why corporations are using more irregular workers. Current labor law protects an employee from getting laid off regardless of how much he can produce once he gets the job. A regular worker is also protected by labor unions and gets high wages. This is why corporations end up favoring irregular workers and outsourcing. The problems of irregular workers cannot be solved if regular workers don’t make concessions.
The Korea Confederation of Trade Unions recently announced that it would strike on Friday if the irregular worker bill, which allows corporations to employ more irregular workers, is not rejected. But the labor federation should first show a little indication that it is willing to share the burden with irregular workers.
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