[EDITORIALS]Time to get real on laborThe National Human Rights Commission expressed the opinion that the labor reform bill being discussed by the Tripartite Commission of labor, management and government should be redressed. It said the bill fails to safeguard the human rights of irregular workers and the elimination of discrimination against them.
It said temporary workers should be allowed for limited purposes, and the principle of “equal jobs, equal pay” should be applied to all worksites. The human rights watchdog’s position is no different from the demands of labor.
Labor Minister Kim Dae-hwan criticized the commission, saying, “The commission is short-sighted. It has lost impartiality and is abusing its authority politically.” The governing Uri Party said, “The commission’s action is absurd and very inappropriate.”
It appears that the commission, rather than helping to resolve disputes in society, is increasing social conflict.
The commission’s opinion on the bill is totally correct from the perspective of human rights. It is true that irregular workers who do the same kind of work as regular workers receive only half the salary, due to their status. Irregular workers are also concerned that they can be fired easily.
If all workers could be treated the same as regular workers, it would be great. But the problem is that such a goal is hardly achievable in reality.
The issue of irregular workers concerns not only human rights but also the labor market, industrial relations and management. The Tripartite Commission has tried to resolve the issue for two years, but failed. The number of irregular workers increased and workers in small businesses faced difficulties while the regular workers in large businesses were protected.
And now, if the reform bill is legislated as the commission wants, businesses will fire irregular workers en masse and relocate their factories to other countries. The commission is allowed to issue “recommendations” or “opinions” for human rights protection. The law specifies that bodies petitioned by the commission should faithfully carry out its recommendation. But its recent recommendations and opinions were rebuffed by government bodies, because it only considered ideals and ignored reality. The commission should not make unrealistic recommendations any more. Doing so will only mar its reputation and not help to improve human rights protection practices.