[EDITORIALS]Investigate bribe-taking unionsFive Busan port union members, including a former union leader from the port workers’ association, made a conscientious declaration that union members gave bribes to the union leaders before to get employed at the port and to get promotions.
They said union leaders have been collecting money from 100 members every month, saying they needed to run the union. The union members had to pay up to 20 million won ($20,000) per month to them. For employment and promotions, the amount got bigger.
The union denied the allegation saying, “There was a case when a few supervisors received bribes from job seekers, but there never was an organized scheme that the entire union was involved in, in hiring people.”
They also emphasized that last July prosecutors concluded the investigation without finding any evidence of bribery. But a former union leader disclosed the exact amount of money he had to offer his superior, after collecting his own bribes from junior workers. Other bribe scandals that he cited are so detailed that we cannot dismiss the possibility that this union has been involved in collective bribery. Moreover, in the Busan area, there have been rumors that you could buy jobs at Busan ports. It is doubtful prosecutors ever had the will to lead an investigation into the case last year.
Busan port union is a giant workers’ association with 9,000 workers as members and 29 regional liaison offices in the area. It also operates a “closed shop” union, meaning it requires mandatory membership in a union to have a job. This is why the port union has become so powerful and the risk of corruption is so high.
The port union said they have formed another organization last February with a shipping association in Busan to create a management-labor arbitration committee concerning giving jobs. But union members there still have the authority to recommend candidates for employment. How can it be possible to guarantee that the employment process was transparent?
In whatever form the union is operated, a union exists for the laborers. If it is involved in taking bribes, the group is only being used for union leaders.
Prosecutors said they would restart their investigation. They should lead a thorough investigation and find out the truth. The port union should also come up with new reforms, including the restructuring of the union itself.