[EDITORIALS]A pragmatic labor movementEighteen senior scholars of labor issued a statement titled “Should the labor movement of Korea continue as it is?” They criticized the recent labor movement that is tilted toward political struggle and group egotism, and appealed both to the government and labor to normalize crippled relations. We hope the labor leadership listens to their bitter advice that “the unions must unfold a pragmatic labor movement supported by the workers and the people.”
Government and labor have been involved in confrontation for a prolonged period, cutting out channels of dialogue. Citing dissatisfaction over the Labor Ministry’s handling of the bill on irregular workers and its decision to intervene in the then hospital workers’ strike, the two umbrella unions, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, withdrew from all government committees, including the Tripartite Commission of labor, management and government, and demanded the resignation of the labor minister.
Since then, they have constantly confronted the government. The scholars raised a question: “Are they staging a struggle for labor’s interest, or do they intend to enter politics by using the organization of labor unions?” They should be blamed for bringing international humiliation on themselves by canceling the meeting of the International Labor Organization to be held in Korea in October. They claim that government persecution of labor is the reason for boycotting the ILO meeting, but if that is the case, they should have participated in the meeting and raised the problem there. Canceling the meeting now shows the intention to accomplish their goal by obstructing the event no matter what happens to the nation’s credibility.
When crippled relations between government and labor are prolonged, labor is damaged in the long run. While pending labor issues, including irregular workers, pile up, if labor representatives refuse to participate in policymaking, who will protect labor’s interests? The current strike by automobile unions has lost control in the absence of coordination, and the amount of damage is increasing.
The reason for the prolonged economic slump and persistent unemployment is businessmen’s lack of desire to invest, and the misguided labor movement has contributed to that. Now, the unions must try to create job opportunities by developing a pragmatic labor movement.